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What are Identity-Based Attacks and How to Stop Them?

Philip Robinson | 6 min read| Published On - January 16, 2024

Identity-Based Attacks

With the increasing reliance on digital identities, the threat of identity-based cyberattacks has escalated. A recent report from the Identity Defined Security Alliance (IDSA) revealed that 90% of organizations have experienced at least one breach related to digital identities in the past year.

What is an Identity-Based Attack?

Identity-based attacks target and compromise the digital identities of individuals, organizations, or entities. These attacks exploit vulnerabilities in identity and access management systems, allowing cybercriminals to steal, alter, or misuse sensitive information such as login credentials, domain names, personal data, and digital certificates. By impersonating legitimate users, attackers can gain unauthorized access to systems and data. These attacks are difficult to detect as they often involve stolen credentials, making it hard to distinguish between the user’s typical behavior and that of the attacker using traditional security measures and tools.

Types of Identity-Based Attacks

Identity-based attacks exploit vulnerabilities in identity storage, management, and authentication. Below are the most common types of identity-based attacks:

Social Engineering & Phishing Attacks: Social engineering attacks target human psychology, relying on manipulation rather than technical exploits to achieve malicious goals. Likewise, phishing attacks impersonate trusted entities, tricking users into revealing personal information like usernames, passwords, or banking details through phishing emails, websites and other methods of communication.

Credential Stuffing: Credential stuffing exploits the human tendency to reuse passwords across multiple platforms. Cybercriminals use compromised login credentials from security breaches or the dark web to gain access to multiple accounts. Reusing passwords across accounts makes users vulnerable to credential stuffing attacks.

Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Attacks: MitM attacks intercept communication between two parties, enabling attackers to eavesdrop or alter data. Unencrypted public or fabricated WiFi networks are often used to launch MitM attacks.

Password Spraying: Password spraying is a type of brute-force attack that tries different commonly used passwords with a list of usernames to gain access to an account. Weak and predictable passwords are targeted in password spraying attacks.

Pass-the-Hash Attack: A pass-the-hash attack steals a hashed password to bypass authentication and gain unauthorized access within a network. Once the attacker is on the network, they can steal confidential information or escalate privileges.

Why are Identity-Based Attacks Dangerous?

It goes without saying that identity-based attacks are potentially harmful to the victim. After all, cybercriminals can exploit stolen identities for various illicit activities, such as benefit fraud, credit card fraud, illegally obtaining prescription drugs, and a lot more. Attackers use advanced techniques to evade detection and the stolen data is often sold on the dark web, further complicating any efforts to thwart such attacks. Even if your businesses can prevent or recover from an identity-based attack, the risk of subsequent attacks persists. The consequences of a data breach include fines, litigation costs, and damage to reputation, which may have an impact on a company’s share value.

Identity-Based Attacks vs. Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when a perpetrator assumes a victim’s identity using Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to commit illegal activities. This can result in financial damage, debts, bankruptcy, and even a criminal record for the victim. Identity-based attacks, on the other hand, are a form of cyber attack where the perpetrator targets an organization to steal an individual’s online identity and gain unauthorized access. While both identity-based attacks and identity theft involve stealing PII, identity-based attacks focus on obtaining confidential data from an organization, while identity theft aims to impersonate individuals to commit fraudulent activities.

How to Prevent Identity-Based Attacks

Implementing the following measures and promoting a culture of security within your organization can substantially reduce the likelihood of identity-based attacks and strengthen your overall security posture. It is crucial to remain vigilant, adapt to emerging threats, and continuously educate employees and stakeholders about the evolving cybersecurity landscape.

Adopt a strong password policy: Implementing strong password practices, such as using complex and unique passwords, regularly changing passwords, and enabling two-factor authentication, can significantly reduce the risk of successful identity-based attacks.

Use a business password manager: A business password manager can help protect companies from identity-based attacks by allowing employees to securely store and manage their passwords in a safe and centralized location.

Enforce MFA: Multi-factor authentication (MFA), which requires multiple forms of authentication, adds an extra layer of security to user accounts, making it more difficult for attackers to gain access even if they have obtained one form of authentication, like a password.

Implement DMARC: Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) shields email domains from account takeover and impersonation attacks by verifying that emails originate from authorized sources.

Enforce least privilege access: Enforcing the principal of least privilege (PoLP) can thwart identity-based attacks by limiting the scope of damage an attacker can inflict, even if they succeed in compromising a user’s credentials.

Conduct regular training: Security awareness training helps users to identify and react appropriately to identity-based attacks, such as phishing, by educating them on the tactics used by attackers and how to protect sensitive information.

Keep all software up to date: Ensuring software is up to date with the latest patches and security updates can significantly reduce the risk of identity-based attacks by eliminating known security vulnerabilities that attackers may exploit to access sensitive information.

Implement a UBA solution: UBA (User Behaviour Analytics) solutions can help prevent identity-based attacks by detecting anomalous user behavior and flagging it for investigation, allowing organizations to quickly respond to potential threats.

Use data encryption: Implementing robust data encryption measures can significantly mitigate the risk of identity-based attacks by preventing unauthorized access to sensitive personal information.

Adopt the Zero Trust security model: The Zero Trust security model reduces the risk of identity-based attacks by continuously authenticating and authorizing users and devices, regardless of their location or network connection.

How Lepide Can Help Prevent Identity-Based Attacks

The Lepide Data Security Platform can play a crucial role in preventing identity-based attacks by enabling organizations to detect and respond to suspicious activities in a timely manner. Through continuous monitoring of user activities, organizations can identify deviations from normal behavior, and potential threats that could indicate an identity-based attack. Lepide’s solution uses machine learning algorithms and behavioral analytics to analyze user actions, allowing for the detection of subtle patterns and indicators of compromise. The platform’s real-time alerting capabilities ensure that security teams are promptly notified about suspicious activities, enabling them to take immediate action to mitigate the threat. Likewise, the comprehensive reporting capabilities of Lepide’s solution can provide valuable insights into user activities. By leveraging user activity monitoring, alerting, and reporting, organizations can proactively prevent identity-based attacks.

If you’d like to see how the Lepide Data Security Platform can help to prevent identity-based attacks, schedule a demo with one of our engineers or start your free trial today.

Philip Robinson
Philip Robinson

Phil joined Lepide in 2016 after spending most of his career in B2B marketing roles for global organizations. Over the years, Phil has strived to create a brand that is consistent, fun and in keeping with what it’s like to do business with Lepide. Phil leads a large team of marketing professionals that share a common goal; to make Lepide a dominant force in the industry.

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