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3 Things You Can Do to Prevent Account Takeovers

Swaroop Sham
Swaroop Sham
Senior Product Marketing Manager, Security

As you likely know, 2018 was not a good year for data security. In the first half of the year, there was a 133% increase in compromised company records compared to the first half of 2017, and an average of 291 records stolen every second. Unfortunately, just a few months in, 2019 has already seen a number of big name corporation data breaches.

Part of the risk posed by data breaches is that they open the door to other threats to customer information, including account takeovers. We’ve seen this before—in the immediate aftermath of the Equifax breach, for instance, account takeovers were reported to increase by 53%. Account takeovers happen when hackers take control of a user’s account, gaining access to personal information, including their address and credit card details. This is problematic for any business that stores users’ credit card information, which hackers can then use to shop for items on the site. The results can be devastating.

The cost of account takeovers

Like data breaches, account takeovers are a growing phenomenon that are costly to both businesses and consumers alike. Between Q1 and Q2 of 2018, account takeover attempts on mobile transactions rose 200%. In the same period, incidents on financial services rose 40%.

These types of attacks are particularly costly to the affected individuals. According to Javelin Study & Research, in 2017, compromised individuals paid $290 and spent 16 hours to resolve each account takeover instance—totalling a cost of $5.1 billion to consumers. For e-commerce businesses, account takeovers can also be costly as they may have to reimburse consumers for any fraudulent charges, a practice that can amount up to 8% of a retailer’s annual revenue.

How to mitigate account takeovers

When developing a strategy aimed at blocking account takeovers, prevention is key. Read on to learn 3 things you can do to protect your company and your customers from account takeovers.

Consider passwordless authentication

It’s an unfortunate fact that many people use the same credentials to log into different accounts. This password practice is a big part of what enables account takeovers, as it increases the likelihood that hackers can use compromised credentials to access sensitive information across accounts. As a prevention method, organizations should consider implementing passwordless practices like fingerprints or facial recognition, as well as modern authentication standards like WebAuthn, which remove passwords from the authentication experience. When organizations opt for these authentication methods, they help to mitigate the risk of stolen credentials, and minimize the chance of account takeovers.

Implement adaptive multi-factor authentication

For organizations where passwordless authentication is not yet possible, the next best option is to use adaptive multi-factor authentication (Adaptive MFA) as a security measure. This approach monitors the user’s login behavior on the basis of location, device, network, and more to determine which authentication methods to use. If the risk factor is high, then the user would be asked to submit an additional identifying factor such as an TOTP code or a one-time password.

In retail or e-commerce settings, this is particularly effective as hackers will often change details, including the shipping or email address, associated with the account. By reacting to that type of change and requesting an additional factor, adaptive MFA can better protect a customer’s sensitive data.

Additionally, companies can design custom rules for when MFA should be used. For instance, some companies require that users answer a security question or provide an SMS code in their first login of the day. Other institutions, like banks or healthcare centers, may ask for multiple factors at every login.

Integrate security and user experience

In a time where user experience is a considerable satisfaction metric for all consumers, organizations should find ways to deliver seamless interactions with their products and services without compromising on security. Thankfully, organizations have access to tools and services that dramatically decrease the chance of an account takeover. Implementing additional authentication factors in a seamless way can give your customers piece of mind while they engage with your product, and ensure that you’re not the next company to make the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Okta makes account protection easy for organizations and their customers thanks to our identity and access management tools, including Adaptive MFA. If you want to learn more about how we can help you, reach out and contact our team.

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Swaroop Sham
Senior Product Marketing Manager, Security

Swaroop Sham is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for Security at Okta. His main focus areas include Multi-factor Authentication, Adaptive Authentication, and Security Integrations. He recently joined Okta, bringing with him over 10 years of experience in cybersecurity. He previously worked at Sift Science, Proofpoint, FireEye and F5 Networks. Swaroop has a Master's and Bachelor's degree in Computer Science.