Risks to Users and Operators of Online Platforms from Credential-Stuffing Attacks

Credential stuffing attacks threaten the security of users and operators of online platforms. This article explains causes and risks for users and platform operators.

Reading time:
4 min
Risks to Users and Operators of Online Platforms from Credential-Stuffing Attacks Image by pch.vector on Freepik

Risks to Users of Online Platforms from Credential-Stuffing Attacks

Credential stuffing attacks pose a high risk for users of online platforms. Criminals’ access to online accounts can lead to financial damage, for example when purchasing goods with stolen credit cards or by exploiting access data to paid offers. Credential-stuffing attacks also pose a risk of identity theft, as attackers may have access to personal information and documents when they access an account.

The biggest risks posed by credential-stuffing attacks to users

  1. Financial Loss: If attackers successfully break into a user’s account, they can, via registered means of payment, make payments and purchase goods or services, causing financial loss to the user.
  2. Loss of Confidential Information: When attackers gain access to a user account, they may be able to obtain confidential information such as account details, credit card numbers, or personal documents.
  3. Risk of Identity Fraud: The personal information collected by attackers (name, address, bank account, etc.) can be used for future identity fraud. This often results in difficulties for victims in opening bank accounts or obtaining loans, as their identity is questioned.
  4. Reputational Damage: when users fall victim to credential-stuffing attacks, an attacker may, for example, use the victim’s social media profile to spread spam. Depending on the context, this can lead to negative reactions from friends, family, and business partners, resulting in reputational damage, not only to the individual but also to the employer or a linked company.
  5. Emotional Drain: The loss of control over an account and the fear of possible further attacks or blackmail with captured personal information are emotionally stressful for most victims.

It is unfortunately common for users to use the same password and email address for various online accounts. This poses a particular risk in the context of credential stuffing attacks, as attackers can thus gain access to multiple online accounts at once.

If a user uses the same password and email address for a social media account and an online shopping account, and the login data of the social media account is stolen by criminals, attackers can also access the user’s online shopping account using this login data.

Therefore, it is important for users to use different passwords and, if possible, different email addresses for each online account. This way, attackers who have captured login data from one of these accounts cannot use it to access other accounts.

Risks to Online Platform Operators from Credential-Stuffing Attacks

For operators of online platforms, credential stuffing attacks pose a great risk, as they often lead to a loss of trust among users. If users find out that their credentials have been stolen and misused, they may no longer access the portal. In addition, credential-stuffing attacks can also lead to financial loss for the operator, for example, through the fraudulent purchase of goods or fraudulent activity on the portal.

The biggest risks from credential stuffing attacks for online platform operators

  1. Financial Loss: if attackers successfully break into an account, they may be able to make payments or purchase goods or services, resulting in financial loss for the operator. Detecting, handling, and resolving account takeover attacks is particularly burdensome and difficult for operators because the account was accessed using valid login credentials. Moreover, affected customers do not notice such anomalies until some time after the service has been provided or the goods have been shipped, and do not report these incidents until it is (too) late.
  2. Reputational Damage: If customer accounts are affected by credential stuffing attacks, this can lead to negative reactions and thus to reputational damage for the operator. A user can hardly comprehend the fraudulent process and is surprised by corresponding (debit) invoices, therefore a fault of the operator is automatically assumed. In addition, users expect a corresponding level of security from online platforms; unexpected processes and charges cause lasting damage or even destroy this basic assumption. Mandatory reporting of security incidents creates transparency for consumers, but can also cause lasting damage to reputation.
  3. Loss of Customers: if users lose confidence in the security of a platform, they may switch to competing platforms, resulting in a permanent loss of customers.
  4. Legal Consequences: In some cases, online platform operators may face legal consequences for security or data protection breaches, especially if they have failed to adequately exercise responsibility for protecting user data.

To protect against credential stuffing attacks, it is important that online platform operators take steps to improve the security of their systems.

Our next blog post will take a closer look at how checking login credentials by users and operators of online platforms can provide effective protection against credential-stuffing attacks.

Contact an Expert

Do you have any further questions or need specific help? Write us a message or arrange a meeting directly.

Show more

Get to the blog