7 key concepts in effective ATO prevention


Seeking to improve your ATO prevention strategies and tactics? Consider the role of these seven concepts in the way you manage your account security.

Data collection

Your highest priority for account takeover prevention should be to equip yourself with the tools necessary to gather data on breaches of all sizes and levels of success.

Rarely does an account takeover occur without earlier probing of your systems. Identifying those probes and understanding your exposure points will do more to prevent more serious breaches and account takeovers than anything else you can do.

Bot detection

For most companies, bot detection will be another high-value investment for account takeoever prevention. In most situations, the value of a single account isn’t significant enough to warrant hands-on attention from an attacker; instead, they must depend on bulk takeovers to profit.

That means automation, and automation is where your security software can spot them and stop them.

Threat intelligence

The detection of direct attempts to compromise your systems is valuable, but it only provides a small portion of the information you need to secure your business against account takeovers. This is where a threat intelligence service comes in, allowing you to benefit from a much broader understanding of potential threats.

Advanced threat intelligence can allow you to see breaches coming and identify threats in an instant, even if you’ve never had first-hand interactions with a threat of a particular type.

User education

Account takeovers frequently rely upon end-users being uneducated in the basics of account security. Social hacking of your clients, partners, colleagues, or employees is often the greatest threat to your security, far beyond what any hacker working purely through technology could hope to achieve.

This means ensuring that anyone and everyone with direct access to your systems has at least a cursory understanding of what is necessary to keep an account secure. Not only will educated users be less likely to expose your accounts, they’ll be less likely to expose account information elsewhere—which can lead to attacks just as effectively as a direct breach of your data.

Early reactions

One of the biggest contributors to disastrous levels of account takeovers is hesitation, delay, or apathy in the face of early warning signs. Small breaches that don’t acquire anything important, or don’t succeed at all, deserve attention.

A generally proactive approach to security will put you in a stronger position every time; it may not allow you to fully stop additional efforts towards an ATO, but it will allow you to slow intrustions, mitigate damages, and present a hard target for attackers—which means you’ll become a low-value target, and face fewer intrusion attempts over time.


Clear, consistent, reliable communication between all users of a system provides one of the best forms of ATO prevention. When breaches happen, inform relevant parties and suggest updates to their security to ensure the breach doesn’t lend itself to additional intrusions or takeovers.

Admins and others in a position to control your systems should understand what is going on in the system at any time, and news of potential breaches or patterns of attempts should be passed throughout your organization; no one should be caught by surprise by information others already have.

Behavior analysis

It’s important to realize that legitimate usage patterns of an account holder are typically highly differentiated from the usage patterns seen during an account takeover. This means that with proper analytics in place, even manual intrusions by a careful attacker can be spotted before significant damage occurs.

This aspect of ATO prevention will only grow in importance as machine learning technology reaches its fullest potential; even the subtlest intrusions with the most advanced tools and access to breach-acquired data may be detected and shut-down by a properly ‘educated’ program.

Parting thoughts

A large part of ATO prevention is understanding the threat—from there, you’ll find you have plenty of tools, data, and services available to secure your company against the vast majority of takeovers. Your security need not be flawless. So long as it’s difficult for a malicious actor to turn a profit by targeting you and your users, you’ll be a lower priority target.


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