Published: 10/06/2022

A beginner's guide to credential stuffing

Global e-commerce is now valued at $26.7 trillion. This is partly thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, which accelerated a boom in online shopping — but financial services, gaming, and many other online industries have also experienced huge growth over the last few years.

The expansion of the digital economy has led to growing digital crime. Automated attacks like credential stuffing impact millions of businesses around the world. But many companies don’t have the right security measures in place to protect their websites, apps, and customers from credential stuffing attacks.

Find out what credential stuffing is, whether you’re at risk, and what you can do to prevent it from compromising your online business.

What is credential stuffing and how does it work?

Credential stuffing is a type of automated cyberattack. Criminals steal or purchase usernames and passwords en masse from the dark web, then use the stolen credentials to gain unauthorized access to user accounts.

Credential stuffing is a brute force attack performed by bots. Attackers program bots to test and verify thousands of stolen login credentials every minute, increasing the chances of finding valid login details for a particular website or app. Successful credential stuffing attacks work as a result of lax security measures and poor password hygiene.

Why do credential stuffing attacks happen?

Credential stuffing is one of the easiest ways for hackers to verify online account details. They can then:

  • Steal money directly if they manage to access bank accounts or other financial services
  • Defraud customers by stealing their identities or other personal information
  • Get valuable data to sell or ransom for large amounts of money
  • Steal high-value assets like frequent fliers miles and other loyalty reward points.

How common are credential stuffing attacks?

Credential stuffing attacks are on the rise — and they’re getting more successful, too. People sign up for more online accounts every day, with 52% admitting to using the same password for multiple accounts. Password managers are designed to mitigate this problem, but many people worry about storing all their passwords in one place.

Resetting and remembering different passwords is difficult and annoying, so it makes sense that customers use the same password over again. But reusing passwords increases the chance of a successful credential stuffing attack — it means that if hackers get hold of your sole password, credential stuffing can potentially give them access to all your online accounts.

The risks of credential stuffing for businesses

With the development of increasingly sophisticated bots, brute force attacks are becoming more successful and more frequent. And it’s not just customers who are at risk from these automated attacks.

Businesses can also see huge financial losses and even closure as a result of credential stuffing attacks. Major risks include:

  • Fines and penalties — negligent privacy practices can result in privacy and data breaches that cost businesses millions of dollars
  • Website downtime — large-scale attacks can force your website or app offline, meaning genuine users and customers can’t access your services
  • Reputation damage — compromised credentials cause anxiety and stress for customers, ultimately damaging their confidence in your business.

How to detect credential stuffing attacks on your website

It’s not always easy to spot a credential stuffing attack. Vigilant detection methods, continuous monitoring, and decisive action are needed to identify and eliminate threats.

Signs of a credential stuffing attack include:

  • A high number of failed login attempts
  • A high number of login attempts from unusual locations
  • A high number of login attempts from IP addresses on blocklists
  • An unexpected surge in traffic to your login page
  • A higher than usual CAPTCHA test failure rate.

While you can use Google Analytics and other website monitoring tools to track these metrics, using a dedicated bot analytics platform makes it easier and faster to see and stop credential stuffing attacks.

How to protect your website from credential stuffing attacks

Measures like multi-factor authentication, CAPTCHA, and device fingerprinting offer limited protection from credential stuffing attacks. You can also put password protection measures in place, and warn users against using the same passwords across multiple sites. But these solutions add barriers for genuine users as well as bots, reducing legitimate login attempts and conversions.

The best way to protect your site from bot attacks is to implement a bot management system. Bot management software like Netacea allows you to monitor your site traffic in real-time, and block bots rapidly before they can attempt a credential stuffing attack.

This anti-bot solution also protects your site from other bot attacks, such as DDoS, scalping, scraping, and carding. It’s an easy way to ringfence your website against all kinds of automated threats.

The future of credential stuffing

Credential stuffing risks are on the rise. As more business is conducted online, bots are becoming more sophisticated and evasive. Plus, regulatory penalties are getting stricter, so there’s more reason than ever for businesses to take online security and data protection seriously.

To stay ahead of the curve, you need a bot management system that can keep up with increasingly advanced bot developments. Find out more about the dangers of credential stuffing bot attacks and how to tackle this growing problem.

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