Will We Ever See the End of Account Theft?

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There’s an 87 Gigabyte file containing 773 Million unique email addresses and passwords being sold on online forums today called “Collection #1.” We know that many users of websites are using the same passwords all over the internet; even after all the years of data breaches and account takeovers and thefts, user behavior stays the same. Most people want the have the least complex means to use a website possible.

So, what does this mean for businesses?

Anywhere you have applications guarded with username / password mechanisms, there’s going to be credential stuffing attacks, courtesy of botnets.  A modern botnet is a distributed network of computers around the globe that can perform sophisticated tasks and is often comprised of compromised computers belonging to other people. Essentially, these botnets are looking to steal the sand from the beach, one grain at a time, and they are never going to stop. If anything, the levels of sophistication of the exploitation methods have grown exponentially.

Today, a Web Application Firewall (WAF) alone is not enough to fight botnets. WAFs can do some of the job, but today’s botnets are very sophisticated and can mimic real human behaviors. Many companies relied on CAPTCHA as their first line of defense, but it’s no longer sufficient to stop bots. In fact, there are now browser plugins to break CAPTCHA.

[You may also like: WAFs Should Do A Lot More Against Current Threats Than Covering OWASP Top 10]

Case in point: In 2016 at BlackHat Asia, some presenters shared that they were 98% successful at breaking these mechanisms. 98%! We, as humans, are probably nowhere near that success rate.  Personally, I’m likely at 70-80%, depending on what words (and backwards letters!) CAPTCHA presents while I’m rushing to get my work done. Even with picture CAPTCHA, I pass maybe 80% of my initial attempts; I can’t ever get those “select the edges of street signs” traps! So, what if bots are successful 98% of the time and humans only average 70%?

CAPTCHA Alone Won’t Save You

If your strategy to stop bots is flawed and you rely on CAPTCHA alone, what are some of the repercussions you may encounter? First, your web analytics will be severely flawed, impacting your ability to accurately gauge the real usage of your site. Secondly, advertising fraud can run your bill up from affiliate sites. Third, the CAPTCHA-solving botnets will still be able to conduct other nefarious deeds, like manipulate inventory, scrape data, and launch attacks on your site.

[You may also like: The Big, Bad Bot Problem]

Identification of good bots and bad bots requires a dedicated solution. Some of the largest websites in the world have admitted that this is an ongoing war for them. Machine learning and deep learning technologies are the only way to stay ahead in today’s world.  If you do not have a dedicated anti-bot platform, you may be ready to start evaluating one today.

Read “Radware’s 2018 Web Application Security Report” to learn more.

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