Akamai published the State of the Internet / Security report: Loyalty for Sale – Retail and Hospitality Fraud. The report details criminal activity targeting the retail, travel, and hospitality sectors with attacks of all types and sizes between July 2018 and June 2020. The report also includes numerous examples of criminal ads from the darknet illustrating how they cash in on the results from successful attacks and the corresponding data theft.
Steve Ragan, Akamai security researcher and author of the State of the Internet / Security report, said, “Criminals are not picky — anything that can be accessed can be used in some way. This is why credential stuffing has become so popular over the past few years. These days, retail and loyalty profiles contain a smorgasbord of personal information, and in some cases financial information too. All of this data can be collected, sold, and traded or even compiled for extensive profiles that can later be used for crimes such as identity theft.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdowns in Q1 2020, criminals took advantage of the worldwide situation and circulated password combination lists, targeting each of the commerce industries featured in the report. It was during this time that criminals started recirculating old credential lists in an effort to identify new vulnerable accounts, leading to a significant uptick in criminal inventory and sales related to loyalty programs.
Between July 2018 and June 2020, Akamai observed more than 100 billion credential stuffing attacks in total. In the commerce category – comprising the retail, travel, and hospitality industries – there were 63,828,642,449 recorded. More than 90% of the attacks in the commerce category targeted the retail industry.
Credential stuffing isn’t the only way that criminals target the retail, travel, and hospitality industries. They target organizations in these industries at the source using SQL Injection (SQLi) and Local File Inclusion (LFI) attacks. Between July 2018 and June 2020, Akamai observed 4,375,711,860 web attacks against retail, travel, and hospitality, accounting for 41% of the overall attack volume across all industries. Within this data set, 83% of those web attacks targeted the retail sector alone. SQLi attacks are an evident favorite among criminals, accounting for just under 79% of the total web application attacks against retail, travel, and hospitality.
As the global economy prepares for a holiday shopping season, it does so in an environment that has changed radically due to the pandemic. Consumers will not be standing outside of brick and mortar stores waiting for the latest deals in the same way they have in the past. They’re going to log-in, collect their reward points, and maybe use loyalty programs to gain some discounts or other perks just for being a member.
Considering everything that goes into a successful loyalty program, and the information people need to provide in order to take part, the criminals have everything they need to get started in a number of crime-related ventures, from account takeovers, to straight-up identity theft. So, while an individual’s loyalty to a merchant, airline, or hotel chain might not literally be for sale, there’s a good chance the account associated with such programs might be.
“All businesses need to adapt to external events, whether it’s a pandemic, a competitor, or an active and intelligent attacker,” Ragan concluded. “Some of the top loyalty programs targeted require nothing more than a mobile number and a numeric password, while others rely on easily obtained information as a means of authentication. There is an urgent need for better identity controls and countermeasures to prevent attacks against APIs and server resources.”