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Account compromise

Account compromise definition

Account compromise is when an unauthorized party gains access to a user’s account to steal personal information or other malicious purposes. When an account is compromised, it means that the attacker has obtained the login credentials (such as username and password) or found a way to bypass the account's security measures. Attackers can compromise accounts using various methods, including phishing attacks, malware infections, weak passwords, or security vulnerabilities.

See also: synthetic identity theft

How attackers may compromise an account

  • Phishing. Attackers use deceptive emails, messages, or websites to trick users into revealing their login credentials.
  • Weak passwords. Using weak or easy-to-guess passwords makes it easier for attackers to gain unauthorized access.
  • Brute-force attacks. Attackers systematically attempt numerous password combinations until they find the correct one. They may also use automated tools.
  • Malware and keyloggers. Malicious software, such as keyloggers or remote access trojans (RATs), can infect a user's device, record keystrokes, and capture login credentials.

Account compromise consequences

  • Access to sensitive information. The attacker can log into the compromised account and access sensitive information, personal data, or confidential files.
  • Identity theft. The attacker may use the compromised account to impersonate the account owner, perform fraudulent activities, or access other accounts associated with the compromised account.
  • Data manipulation or deletion. The attacker can modify, delete, or corrupt data within the compromised account, potentially leading to data loss or disruption of services.
  • Spamming or phishing. The compromised account may be used to send spam emails or phishing messages to the account owner's contacts or a broader audience, potentially tricking them into revealing sensitive information or spreading malware.
  • Financial fraud. If the compromised account is linked to financial services or online shopping, the attacker may make unauthorized transactions, purchase items, or steal funds.

How to protect accounts

  • Use strong, unique passwords.
  • Beware of phishing and social engineering attempts.
  • Enable multi-factor authentication.
  • Regularly back up your data.
  • Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi.
  • Monitor your account activity.