Corporate Account Takeover Definition

KZero Staff
Jul 27, 2023

What is Corporate Account Takeover?

A corporate account takeover (CATO) attack is when cybercriminals target and successfully obtain login credentials from a business owner for corporate accounts. In these attacks, the attacker gains access to the corporate bank account as well as other online accounts that provide access to sensitive company and customer data.

Usually, a cybercriminal will gain unauthorized access by breaching a system through phishing or similar attacks. Once the cybercriminal is in the system, they can wreak havoc and initiate fraudulent wire transfers, damage the company’s reputation, and cause significant financial loss.

How Does CATO Work?

In a CATO attack, the cybercriminal gains access to important company accounts. While bank accounts are typically a primary target, the attacker may also attempt to access accounts to steal sensitive data as well.

Often, these attacks begin with a spear phishing attack. Spear phishing uses highly targeted emails or other messages to trick a target into performing some action. For example, a spear phishing email might claim to be from the company’s bank indicating that there is an issue with their account that needs to be resolved.

If the target falls for this phishing email, they might click on a link in the email to go to the bank’s site and resolve the issue. However, the link will actually lead to a fake, phishing page designed to look like the bank’s login page.

On reaching this login page, the target will enter their credentials and attempt to log into the bank account and address the issue. However, instead of providing access to their bank account, the login page will send the credentials to the attacker who can use them to steal money from the company.

Potential Impacts of CATO

CATO attacks can have various impacts on the organization depending on the access achieved by the attacker. Some common examples include:

  • Financial Losses: Often, CATO attacks are geared toward financial theft. The attacker will attempt to gain access to corporate bank accounts to transfer money to their own accounts.
  • Data Theft: A cybercriminal may also gain access to corporate applications or databases containing sensitive information. This information may be used by the attacker or sold on the Dark Web.
  • Reputational Damage: Data theft, financial losses, and other actions taken by the attacker could tarnish the business’s reputation and relationships with its customers, vendors, and partners.
  • Legal and Regulatory Risks: If an organization fails to properly protect itself and its customers, then it may be subject to lawsuits or regulatory penalties.

Protecting Against CATO

Organizations can protect themselves against account takeover attacks in a few different ways, including:

  • Security Training: CATO attacks usually use social engineering to trick the target into granting the attacker access to business accounts. Teaching employees to recognize phishing and other threats can reduce the risk of them being taken in by these attacks.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Often, CATO attacks are designed to steal credentials that grant an attacker access to business accounts. Implementing MFA with strong authentication factors can make stealing and using credentials more complex for an attacker.
  • Security Solutions: CATO attacks commonly employ phishing attacks or malware. Email and endpoint security solutions can detect and block these threats before they pose a risk to the business.


Corporate account takeover attacks pose a serious risk to the business in terms of financial and data losses and reputational damage. Implementing strong authentication for vital accounts is essential to protecting them against malicious access.

KZero Staff

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