What is an Account Takeover (ATO) Attack?

An Account Takeover Attack (ATO) involves a bad actor gaining access to an individual’s online user account or accounts. Once they have access, the attacker may change account details, steal personal or financial information/funds, use the account send out phishing emails or social media posts, or use the user’s credentials to gain further access to a larger organization.

How to Recognize This Threat: There is no shortage of ways an attacker may look to stage an account takeover attack, as often just one piece of personal information can get them started. This may include an email address, full name, date of birth, or city of residence – all of which are usually easy to find. ATOs come in many forms, including social engineering emails or social media activities, credential stuffing, or brute force or botnet attacks to try numerous password combos quickly. Top targets when it comes to business accounts tend to be IT, HR, and management due to their level of access within the organization.

How to Prevent This Threat: Strong passwords and multi-factor authentication can make it especially tough to crack a login screen. And good online hygiene keeping personal information personal helps as well. Train employees in this practice, and to recognize phishing attempts in various forms. To further protect your organization, a web application firewall can help recognize and stop account takeover attempts as well.

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