Each time you log into your bank account or your work accounts, you use your credentials to access the system and your data. If your credentials were to fall into the wrong hands, criminals could easily access some of your and your employer’s most sensitive data.
Cybercriminals are always looking for new ways to get a hold of user credentials through a process known as credentials harvesting. In 2020 alone, 71.5% of phishing attacks focused on credentials harvesting.
As experts in cybersecurity in Miami, we feel that it is vital for people to understand what credentials harvesting is and how to protect against it.
What is Credentials Harvesting?
Credentials harvesting is the process that cybercriminals use to steal user credentials (username and password combinations). These are the credentials used to access protected systems and data.
Harvested credentials are typically sold in bulk on the dark web, and they can be used to launch further attacks on an organization or individual.
Cybercriminals use a number of tactics for credential harvesting, including:
- Social engineering (using psychological manipulation to trick users into providing their credentials)
- Brute force
- Credential stuffing (using a database of compromised credentials to gain access to the targeted system or application)
Credential theft has become very sophisticated, and because they appear to be a normal user on the system’s end, these attacks become difficult to respond to and detect.
Once a bad actor has a user’s credentials, they can use them to log into the system and steal sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, other credentials and confidential data.
Any organization is vulnerable to credentials harvesting, so it’s important to take steps to minimize the risk of this type of attack.
How to Protect Against Credentials Harvesting
Credential harvesting attacks can affect virtually any industry, from finance to healthcare and retail.
There are several steps you can take to protect against credentials harvesting, including:
Employee education and training can go a long way in preventing credentials attacks. Ensure that all team members are up to speed on anti-phishing training and cybersecurity best practices.
Team members should know how to identify and respond to phishing attacks. They should also be encouraged to report unusual signs or activities that they experience.
Access Management and Control
For a more advanced protection method, consider risk-based access control. This method uses machine learning to define and enforce access control based on user behavior.
Access decisions are made in real-time. Typically, risk-based access management is used in conjunction with multi-factor authentication.
Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)
MFA is an effective way to help protect against credentials harvesting attacks. In fact, MFA is one of the best-known ways to prevent unwanted access to an organization and its sensitive data.
With MFA, the user must confirm that they are the ones trying to access their account. Typically, this verification is done via a code sent through email, text or over the phone.
Credential vaulting ensures a secure pathway for users to avoid credentials harvesting. Privileged credentials are kept in an encrypted vault, and users never actually see their login information.
Vaulting also provides tracking and usage information for better monitoring and auditing.
The Bottom Line
Credentials harvesting attacks are becoming more sophisticated and favored by cybercriminals. It’s important for organizations to take steps to protect against these types of attacks, which can cause significant financial and reputational harm.