Trustwave Rapid Response: CrowdStrike Falcon Outage Update. Learn More

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Top 5 Ways Cybercriminals Engage in Credential Harvesting: Protecting Your Login Credentials

In today's digital world, login credentials are the keys to the kingdom. Whether it's your online banking, your social media accounts, or your work accounts, your login credentials are essential for accessing your personal information.

Unfortunately, cybercriminals are always looking for ways to obtain these credentials, and their techniques are becoming increasingly sophisticated. In this article, we'll explore the top five ways cybercriminals obtain login credentials and offer tips on how you can protect yourself from credential harvesting.

1. Phishing

Phishing is one of the most common ways that cybercriminals obtain login credentials. Phishing attacks typically involve sending an email or message that appears to be from a legitimate source, such as a service that you use, a friend, or a colleague, and through the process of trying to access the content in the email, they request that the user enter their login credentials.

In this case, victims enter their credentials into websites designed to look like the real thing but are actually controlled by cybercriminals who use the information provided by the user to gain access to their accounts.

Phishing attacks are often successful because they rely on the user's trust in the sender of the message and on the lack of attention paid to each individual message. To protect yourself from phishing attacks, you should always be cautious of emails or messages that ask you to open attachments, follow web links, or enter your login credentials. If you're unsure about the legitimacy of a message, you should contact the company, friend, or colleague directly to verify its authenticity.

2. Social Engineering

Social engineering is another common technique used by cybercriminals to obtain login credentials. Social engineering involves using psychological manipulation to trick users into divulging sensitive information. Cybercriminals may use techniques such as pretexting, baiting, or quid pro quo to obtain login credentials.

Pretexting involves creating a false sense of trust between the cybercriminal and the user. For example, a cybercriminal may call a user and pretend to be from the IT group or an outside IT service provider. They will then ask for a screen share and use the access to install keylogging software or other malware designed to harvest credentials.
Baiting and quid pro quo often involves offering users something in exchange for their login credentials. For example, the threat actor might offer a free gift card or a service on a trial basis in exchange for the user's login credentials.

To protect yourself from social engineering attacks, you should always be cautious of requests for sensitive information, particularly if they are unsolicited. It would be best if you were also wary of any request to gain access to your computer without verifying the request through authorized channels.

3. Malware

Malware is a type of software attackers design to infect systems and, in this instance, steal information. Keyloggers are a type of malware that can capture login credentials as they are entered by users. Keyloggers are often installed through phishing emails or by exploiting vulnerabilities in software or operating systems.

To protect yourself from malware, you should always keep your software and operating system up to date with the latest security patches. Also be cautious of emails or messages that contain suspicious links or attachments. Additionally, you should use anti-virus software with up-to-date signatures to detect and remove any malware that may be present on your system.

4. Credential Stuffing

Credential stuffing is a type of cyber attack where attackers use a large database of compromised login credentials, such as usernames and passwords, to attempt to gain access to a target system or application. The technique involves the automated input of these credentials into login pages to gain access to a user's account. This technique is made possible by the widespread use of weak or reused passwords across multiple online accounts.

In a credential stuffing attack, an attacker first obtains a list of login credentials, often from a previous data breach, and uses automated software to test each one in rapid succession against a targeted system or application. Attackers design the software to mimic the behavior of a legitimate user, such as submitting login credentials and navigating through the site. The goal is to identify valid login credentials and gain access to user accounts.

Organizations can implement several security measures to protect against credential-stuffing attacks, such as Multi Factor Authentication (MFA), user account hygiene where passwords are not shared between different systems, and user security training to understand how to construct strong passwords.

5. Brute Force

A brute force attack tries to crack a password by guessing every possible combination until it finds the correct one. This type of attack is time-consuming and may not be successful if the password is strong, but cybercriminals can use tools that automate the process and speed up the guessing.

To prevent brute force attacks, users should ensure that their passwords are strong and complex, with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Organizations should also implement policies that require regular password changes and limit the number of failed login attempts.


Credential harvesting is a serious threat to the security of organizations and individuals alike. Cybercriminals use a variety of techniques to gain access to login credentials, including phishing, malware, credential stuffing, brute force, and social engineering tactics.

It is essential for organizations to implement strong security measures, such as multifactor authentication, that uses a numeric entry to validate the user to protect against credential theft. Password managers, key fobs, or user behavior checks for location, IP, and timing are also options to increase the confidence that authorized users are the ones authenticating to your environment. In addition, gates on the frequency of requests should be implemented to limit the number of attempts before being blocked and perform dark web scans to get lists of emails involved in a breach associated with your domain to help keep your environment clean.

In addition, employee education and awareness training can help to prevent social engineering attacks and improve overall security posture. By staying vigilant and taking proactive measures, organizations can reduce the risk of credential harvesting and protect their sensitive data and systems from unauthorized access.


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