A credential stuffing attack is a type of cyber-attack where hackers use stolen or leaked username and password pairs in an attempt to gain access to user accounts. The term “credential stuffing” is used because the attackers are literally stuffing (i.e., submitting) the stolen credentials into login pages and other registration forms on multiple sites to gain access to accounts.
How credential stuffing attacks work
Credential stuffing attacks usually happen after attackers breach the data system of an organization and steal usernames, passwords, other personal information, etc. When it’s time to attack other users’ accounts (e.g., during one of the holiday shopping seasons), the attackers reuse the stolen account details from their previous breach. Because many people use the same passwords on different sites, attackers are able to get into some accounts with ease.
How to protect your business against credential stuffing attacks
In order to prevent credential stuffing attacks, you can take a number of steps:
- Identify compromised accounts. There are many ways to do this, but at the very least you should periodically check your employee email addresses against credential stuffing lists that are published by security researchers. You can then disable any compromised credentials that are found. Just remember, credential stuffing attacks aren’t limited to login credential pairs – many of them include compromised payment card information, which means you should check your employee email addresses against credential stuffing lists that are published by security researchers and credit reporting agencies.
- Train employees about credential reuse. Employees can be the weakest link in credential management. It’s essential to communicate often to them that using unique passwords for each account is just as important as using complex passwords. For example, if an employee uses the same username/password combination on their business email account and online shopping accounts, one credential stuffing attack could lead to a data breach at work.
- Use an advanced anti-bot solution. Bot detection and prevention solutions can help to detect credential stuffing attacks in progress and stop them before they do damage. These solutions work by analyzing user behavior in real-time and identifying any suspicious activity, such as rapid credential submission.
- Use two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication (and multi-factor authentication) is one of the best ways to protect your business from credential stuffing attacks. In addition to your username and password, you would also need to provide a unique code (usually sent as a text message to your mobile phone) in order to log in. This makes it much more difficult for attackers to gain access to your accounts, even if they have stolen your username and password.
- Use a password manager. A password manager is a software application that helps you create and manage complex passwords for your business and personal accounts. Password managers can also help you generate unique passwords for each site, which makes it difficult for attackers to gain access to your accounts even if they have stolen your login details.
- Use credential stuffing monitoring. Credential stuffing attacks can happen in real-time, so it’s important to have the right tools in place to monitor credential stuffing attempts. Credential stuffing monitoring software can detect credential stuffing attacks and alert you in real-time so you can act before an attack succeeds.
How to mitigate a credential stuffing attack
Once the attack has been detected, you need to take steps to mitigate them before it can do any harm. Here are a few things you can do:
Monitor credential stuffing attempts
Credential stuffing monitoring software detects credential stuffing attempts as they happen so your business can respond as quickly as possible. It also sends alerts in real-time so you know when credential stuffing attacks have been detected and stop them from causing damage. You can even set up rules ahead of time that will block or quarantine suspicious login requests automatically, giving you more flexibility in dealing with credential stuffing incidents.
Disable compromised credentials
If a credential has been compromised, you should immediately disable it so attackers cannot use it again in the future. This is especially important for username/password credential pairs, social security numbers, and credit card numbers.
Block credential stuffing attacks
Credential stuffing monitoring software can also block credential stuffing attempts before they ever reach your employees. This is a good way to make sure credential stuffing attacks never affect your business at all. You can set up rules ahead of time that will detect credential stuffing activity and stop it from reaching your network or endpoints.
Impact of credential stuffing across multiple accounts
A credential stuffing attack can have a number of negative consequences for your business, including:
- Data loss or theft. Credential stuffing can lead to data loss or theft. This is especially true when login credentials are stolen, allowing attackers to log in to accounts and access sensitive information or business systems. Data loss can also happen through malware infections, ransomware attacks, and other forms of social engineering.
- Attackers can gain unauthorized access with stolen credentials. Credential stuffing attacks can lead to the compromise of your employees’ login details. If login credentials are stolen, attackers can use them to gain access to accounts and systems. They could steal data, conduct transactions, use company resources for nefarious purposes (such as crypto mining), or do anything else an employee would be able to do once logged in.
- Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks. Credential stuffing can also be used to launch DDoS attacks. A DDoS attack is when an attacker floods a target with traffic from multiple sources, overwhelming it and making it unavailable to legitimate users. In the case of a credential stuffing attack, the target is your business’ login page. This can prevent employees from logging in and accessing the systems they need to do their jobs.
- Loss of revenue. Credential stuffing can also result in lost revenue for your business. This is because login credentials are often used to complete financial transactions, for example at banks and credit card companies. When login details are compromised, attackers can use them to conduct transactions that will result in lost revenue for you.
- Brand reputation damage. Credential stuffing can also damage your brand reputation. When login details are stolen and used to log in to accounts or post content, it reflects poorly on your business. It makes it look like you’re not taking security seriously and that you’re not doing everything you can to protect your customers’ data.
Cost of credential stuffing attacks
The cost of a credential stuffing attack can be significant. In addition to the losses mentioned above, you may also have to pay for the remediation services required to fix the damage done by the attack. This can include restoring data, rebuilding systems, and hiring security professionals to help investigate and prevent future attacks.
Statistics on credential stuffing attacks
Since 2016, the average number of stolen credentials fell from 63 million to 17 million in 2020. This data shows how many data breaches have taken place in the past decade, and how data breach incidents are decreasing. However, data breaches will continue to happen due to the ever-growing risk of unprotected data via third-party vendors.
Credential stuffing vs password spraying
Credential stuffing attacks are similar to password spraying attacks, but they’re more sophisticated and can be more damaging.
Password spraying is a type of brute force attack that uses a list of common passwords to try to log in to accounts.
Credential stuffing takes this a step further by using lists of stolen login details to try to log in to accounts. This makes it more likely that attackers will be able to gain access to accounts and data.
Credential stuffing attacks vs brute force attacks
Credential stuffing is more sophisticated than brute force attack attempts.
Brute force attacks use a list of common passwords to perform multiple login attempts at once. This makes it more likely that attackers will be able to gain access to accounts and data.
Credential stuffing attacks use lists of stolen login details to try to log in to accounts. This makes it more likely that attackers will be able to gain access to accounts and data, and can be more damaging than a brute force attack.
Frequently asked questions about credential stuffing
What is the best solution to credential stuffing?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The best solution for credential stuffing will vary depending on your business’s specific needs and security posture.
However, some general tips to protect your business from credential stuffing attacks include:
- Using strong passwords and two-factor authentication
- Monitoring login activity and identifying suspicious patterns
- Regularly updating passwords and other account information
- Training employees on how to identify phishing emails and other scams that could lead to a credential stuffing attack.
If you work at an enterprise, consider investing in anti-bot software to protect your accounts against credential stuffing.
Bot management solutions can include anti-bot detection, anti-bot protection, anti-keylogging programs, anti-form entry prompts and more. These help to protect your business from credential stuffing attacks by providing a number of safeguards for you to choose from to find the solution that fits best for you.
How can I tell if my business has been the victim of a credential stuffing attack?
The best way to tell if your business has been the victim of a credential stuffing attack is by monitoring login activity and identifying suspicious patterns. You can use tools such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, malware detection software, and bot management tools to help you identify these patterns.
You should also be aware of the signs that an attack may be occurring, such as sudden spikes in login attempts or unusual activity from IP addresses that are not typically associated with your business.
What is the impact of credential stuffing?
A credential stuffing attack can have a damaging impact on businesses. The data stolen from these attacks can be used by attackers to cause further damage through data breaches, resale of data on the dark web, or data mining for ransomware purposes. When this data makes its way onto the dark web markets, it is easy to find and there are many people willing to buy data like this, making it highly profitable for cybercriminals.
How many companies have been victims of credential stuffing attacks?
Within the past decade, over one billion credentials have been exposed in data breaches with an average of 63 million records breached each year. Since 2016, the number of data breaches has significantly decreased while the number of compromised records per incident has increased.
Despite this trend, all businesses should be aware that credential stuffing attacks can still happen and take steps to prevent them from occurring within their networks and systems.
What can I do to protect my business from credential stuffing?
The best way to protect your business from a credential stuffing attack is by using strong passwords and two-factor authentication, monitoring login activity and identifying suspicious patterns, and regularly updating passwords and other account information. You should also train employees on how to identify phishing emails and other scams that could lead to a credential stuffing attack.
You should also implement anti-bot protection on your site to prevent automated credential stuffing attacks from occurring.
If you are concerned that your business may have been the victim of a credential stuffing attack, you can seek professional help from a cybersecurity firm that can assist in mitigating the damage caused by the attack.