The recent Equifax breach once again has the whole nation talking about cybercrime — and the widespread fraud and identity theft likely to follow in the wake of 143 million compromised consumers. Identity theft is a major concern for individuals, but as SurfWatch Labs chief security strategist Adam Meyer noted, malicious actors spring boarding off of breached information to authenticate as legitimate users is perhaps a more significant concern when it comes to organizations.
Meyer’s thoughts echo the findings of SurfWatch Labs’ recent whitepaper, which found that malicious actors tend to be focused on authentication when it comes to fraud on dark web markets and cybercriminal forums.
Downloaded the full whitepaper, “Fraud and the Dark Web”
The most observed type of dark web fraud in 2017 is account fraud, which has accounted for more than a quarter (25.2%) of all the fraud-related activity observed on the dark web this year. That includes a wide variety of different accounts that can be accessed with stolen customer credentials, including:
- online accounts for banking and financial services;
- online store accounts, as both buyers and sellers;
- accounts tied to monthly subscriptions or other recurring services;
- accounts related to the growing number of digital cryptocurrencies;
- and more.
By comparison, credit card fraud, which is what many consumers may associate with the dark web, has only accounted for 16.7% of the activity so far this year.
The focus on this more indirect fraud — the buying, selling, and trading of access to accounts connected to payment information or services — is driven by both the huge growth in the number of online accounts and the weak authentication that so often accompanies those accounts.
The Equifax breach has simply exacerbated those authentication concerns to the point where outlets like Wired and The Verge are writing that we may need a “fundamental reassessment in how, and why, we identify ourselves” and that it may be “time to burn it all down and start over.” SurfWatch Labs analysts, along with many other researchers, have been warning for years that the pool of forever-compromised information is continuing to grow deeper and cause more issues for business unprepared to deal with that reality.
What can organizations do to protect themselves? Unfortunately, that is not a one-size-fits-all answer.
“Collectively, organizations lose billions of dollars to fraud-related cybercrime every year,” the whitepaper noted. “Individually, how each organization should address the problem of fraud can vary greatly depending their unique risk footprints.”
However, there are some general best practices that all businesses should keep in mind when it comes to combating fraud, such as:
- Continuous monitoring of malicious actors: Dark web markets, paste sites, social media, and other communication channels are often used to leak stolen data and discuss cyber threats. Organizations should have a way to monitor any leaks or threats that may directly affect their customers, employees, or supply chain. In addition, organizations should stay abreast of any changes in the cybercriminal tactics, techniques, and procedures being used by malicious actors so that they can adapt their cyber defenses.
- Discourage the the use of weak or already compromised passwords: Consumers have a growing number of accounts that are either tied to financial information or able to be easily monetized by cybercriminals, and consumers’ poor password habits are frequently exploited by malicious actors. NIST recommends advising users against passwords that have been previously breached, and in August 2017 security researcher Troy Hunt provided a list of 320 million compromised passwords that organizations can implement to encourage the use of more secure passwords as they see fit.
- Encourage two-factor authentication: With so much fraud centered on compromised accounts, having an additional layer of authentication can greatly reduce the chances of those accounts being compromised. Organizations may be reluctant to create additional steps in the login process, but there is an expanding number of secondary authentication options available with varying levels of security and usability.
- Prioritize and take action against the most impactful threats: In 2014, FICO reported that the average duration of a physically compromised ATM or POS device was 36 days. In 2016, that dropped to just 11 days – and the average number of payment cards affected by a single compromise was cut in half. Implementing training and systems to consistently address the most common and impactful threats facing your organization can have a significant impact in reducing fraud.
In addition to our whitepaper on Fraud and the Dark Web, SurfWatch Labs will also be hosting a webinar on Wednesday, September 20 from 1-2 PM ET.
Cyber Fraud: How it Happens and What You Can Do
The webinar will feature a discussion around cyber fraud, including an in-depth examination of the “Anatomy of Fraud,” what intel can be gathered from Dark Web markets and forums, and recommended courses of action to proactively mitigate the risk of fraud as well as how to effectively respond if fraud occurs.