Cloud Account Takeover: Understanding Push-Bombing and Effective Prevention Measures
In today's digital landscape, cloud account takeover poses a significant threat to organizations. With numerous systems and cloud applications requiring usernames and passwords, employees find themselves logging into multiple platforms daily. Unfortunately, hackers have devised various methods to obtain these login credentials, aiming to gain unauthorized access to valuable business data, launch sophisticated attacks, and even send insider phishing emails. The severity of account breaches has escalated drastically, with account takeover (ATO) incidents rising by a staggering 307% between 2019 and 2021. While multi-factor authentication (MFA) has long been hailed as an effective defense against credential breaches, hackers have found workarounds, including a technique known as push-bombing.
Doesn't Multi-Factor Authentication Stop Credential Breaches?
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is widely adopted by organizations and individuals as an additional layer of security. By requiring users to provide two or more forms of identification, such as a password and a verification code sent to a mobile device, MFA effectively prevents attackers who have acquired usernames and passwords from gaining unauthorized access. For many years, MFA has proven to be a robust safeguard for cloud accounts. However, the effectiveness of MFA has spurred hackers to develop new methods to bypass this security measure. One such technique is push-bombing.
How Does Push-Bombing Work?
When users enable MFA on their accounts, they typically receive a code or authorization prompt for verification. After entering their login credentials, the system sends an authorization request to the user, which must be completed to finalize the login process. This authorization request is usually delivered through a "push" message, which can be received via SMS/text, device pop-ups, or app notifications. Receiving these notifications is a regular part of the MFA login process that users are familiar with.
Push-bombing exploits this push notification process. Hackers begin with the user's credentials, which they obtain through methods like phishing or acquiring passwords from large-scale data breaches. They then take advantage of the push notification feature by attempting to log in repeatedly, resulting in the legitimate user receiving a barrage of push notifications in quick succession. Although some individuals might question the receipt of an unexpected code, the overwhelming volume of notifications can lead users to inadvertently approve access, thereby granting the hacker entry into the account. Push-bombing is essentially a social engineering attack that aims to confuse, wear down, and trick users into unknowingly providing access to their accounts.
Ways to Combat Push-Bombing at Your Organization
1. Educate Employees:
Knowledge is a powerful defense against push-bombing attacks. By providing comprehensive education and training to employees, they can be better prepared to recognize and respond to such threats. Educate staff members about push-bombing, its working mechanism, and what steps they should take if they receive unrequested MFA notifications. It is crucial to establish clear channels for reporting these attacks, enabling the IT security team to alert other users and take necessary actions to secure everyone's login credentials.
2. Reduce Business App "Sprawl":
The average employee utilizes approximately 36 different cloud-based services daily, necessitating numerous logins. The greater the number of logins, the higher the risk of a compromised password. To mitigate this risk, assess the number of applications your organization employs and explore opportunities to consolidate them. Platforms like Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace offer a suite of tools accessible through a single login, streamlining the cloud environment and enhancing both security and productivity.
3. Adopt Phishing-Resistant MFA Solutions:
To entirely thwart push-bombing attacks, consider migrating to a different form of MFA that is resistant to phishing attempts. Phishing-resistant MFA leverages a device passkey or physical security key for authentication. Unlike traditional MFA, this method eliminates the need for push notifications, significantly enhancing security. Although more complex to implement, phishing-resistant MFA offers an elevated level of protection compared to text or app-based MFA.
4. Enforce Strong Password Policies:
For push-bombing attackers to send multiple push notifications, they must possess the user's login credentials. Implementing and enforcing strong password policies reduces the likelihood of passwords being compromised. Standard practices for strong password policies include using a combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols, avoiding the use of personal information, securely storing passwords, and refraining from reusing passwords across multiple accounts.
5. Implement an Advanced Identity Management Solution:
Employing an advanced identity management solution can further fortify your defense against push-bombing attacks. Such solutions typically integrate all logins through a single sign-on (SSO) mechanism, simplifying the user experience by consolidating login processes and MFA prompts. Additionally, businesses can leverage identity management solutions to implement contextual login policies that provide a higher level of security. Contextual factors, such as geographic location or specific time frames, can be used to automatically block login attempts that deviate from established policies.
Do You Need Help Improving Your Identity & Access Security?
While multi-factor authentication plays a crucial role in securing cloud accounts, it should not be relied upon as the sole defense against threats like push-bombing. To minimize the risk of a cloud breach, organizations must adopt multiple layers of protection. If you require assistance in reinforcing your access security and safeguarding your organization from such threats, reach out to our team today to schedule a consultation.
Cloud account takeover, exemplified by the alarming rise in account breaches, poses a significant challenge to organizations. Push-bombing, a technique used to bypass multi-factor authentication, has emerged as a sophisticated method employed by hackers. However, organizations can effectively combat push-bombing by educating employees, reducing app sprawl, adopting phishing-resistant MFA solutions, enforcing strong password policies, and implementing advanced identity management solutions. By adopting these preventive measures, organizations can significantly enhance their identity and access security, reducing the risk of falling victim to account breaches and the associated detrimental consequences.
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