Cyberattacks are on the rise worldwide, impacting businesses of all shapes and sizes operationally and financially. One type of attack represents a significant portion of these incidents that small and medium (SMB) business owners should ensure they are protecting themselves against — and that’s the account takeover attack.

Account takeover attacks are a type of attack where — as the name suggests — bad actors take over online accounts using stolen passwords and usernames. These stolen credentials often come from previous attacks and then are sold on the dark web. Once taken over, attackers can use the accounts to execute further attacks or deploy bots, resulting in negative outcomes for the individual employee or the organization.

These types of attacks are on the rise, causing new risks to SMBs and organizations everywhere. According to a study in 2021, 22 percent of adults in the United States, or around 24 million people, have been victims of this type of attack. Often, these accounts were social media, financial, or eCommerce accounts, and the attacks resulted in an average of $12,000 in damage.

Many factors can lead to this type of attack. One key factor is carelessness around password best practices, such as creating strong passwords or leveraging multi-factor authentication. Additionally, more than 60 percent of users surveyed use the same password for multiple accounts, making them especially susceptible to account takeover attacks.

The good news is that there are some positive and relatively easy actions that SMB business owners or IT team leaders can take to mitigate the risk from these attacks. One step is to educate employees on the importance of strong password best practices and how to spot potential phishing attacks that may be looking to harvest their login details. These phishing attacks can happen over email and other channels such as text, collaboration, social media, and more. Additionally, an SMB can implement anti-malware technology to help prevent malware or viruses that could allow hackers to harvest login details or encourage using VPN software to ensure encrypted traffic.

Additionally, an SMB can put in place protections to prevent its systems from becoming a vector for account takeover attacks, should they offer that as part of their services. For instance, steps to avoid brute force credential cracking can involve limiting the number of password combinations or requiring longer passwords from users.

Account takeover attacks are one of the many types of rising cyberattacks facing SMBs today. Given their prevalence and ability to impact individuals and the organization more broadly, SMB leaders need to consider what steps they are taking to educate their employees about this new risk and put technology in place to limit its risk. If they do that, an SMB can help ensure a safer and more secure future for everyone involved.