Does “account takeover fraud” sound ominous to you? It should, because it is becoming the preferred way for criminals to perpetrate new schemes and victimize people online. Account takeover fraud occurs when a fraudster gains unauthorized access to an online account, usually through obtaining a list of usernames and passwords, and its incidence is growing – according to an article in Time.
We knew with every headline about massive data breaches, like the ones that stuck Target and Home Depot, for example, that there would be repercussions. When personal information is stolen, it is only a matter of time before that data is sold, shared, or otherwise lands in the hands of fraudsters intent on making a quick buck. In the case of account takeover fraud, cybercriminals are using the information in a form of identity theft, opening new accounts and gaining access to existing ones.
The Time article points out that Canada-based NuData Security, a firm that claims to predict and prevent online fraud, “analyzed more than 15.7 million login interactions from May through June and identified 882,340 as high risk or potential account takeover attempts.” That is a staggering incidence of fraud, more than 60 percent of interactions being pegged as potentially fraudulent. And that’s only a two month period.
It means that at some point, somewhere, a bad actor has no doubt tried to hack one of your accounts. It might be for a different reason than ordering a new credit card: as the article explains, in some cases it is leave fake product reviews, which the fraudster is presumable being paid top dollar to do in your name. But once your information has been breached, it can be used for more direct financial gain in opening new accounts: credit cards, cell phones and online purchases, just to name a few.
There is hope in battling this proliferation of fraud, and it lies in behavioral analytics. While the article doesn’t elaborate, we know that behavioral analytics is already used to marketing ends – to predict purchasing patterns, online activity, and other individualized behavior – and its potential is being tapped for security purposes, as well. Through behavioral analytics, red flags of user behavior can help security teams know when an account has possibly been hacked. As examples, some tip-offs might include a user who is:
- Logging in from an IP address linked to distant location or different country than usual
- Making seemingly random purchases or purchasing in much higher amounts than usual
- Changing address and other personal information, especially for delivery of purchases
- Logging in at different times of the day and at different frequencies than previous patterns
- Following different online shopping or browsing patterns than in previous visits (for example, buying large quantities of a single product without reading the reviews or specifications)
Compiled as a scoring system, deviations from normal online behavior patterns can help investigators know that something is amiss. This can be useful after the fact, in determining when a fraud began … but even more impactful if it is in place to help prevent fraud – perhaps through a security freeze on an account that is suspected of being compromised.
Fraudsters will keep innovating. As they continue their takeover efforts, fraud prevention experts will need to be as diligent as ever in staying ahead of the curve.