Email Security Blog

Stop Account Take Overs (ATO) With Stylometry

If you’ve ever been a victim of identity theft or had a credit card stolen, you probably know what an email account takeover feels like. Not only is it a total invasion of privacy, it can be a costly dilemma for you, your company, and quite possibly, every one of your contacts.

How Does an Account Takeover Happen?

Account takeovers occur when a hacker gets a hold of your login credentials. Maybe they got access to your credentials through a phishing email. Or, perhaps your email password is overly hackable. Regardless of how the imposter got access to your email account, once they have your information, the hacker can easily will login to your accounts and change the User ID and password. From there, they pose as you – the user, and can send out convincing phishing emails under your name, and sometimes even from your company’s email server.

One vital defense in the war against phishing emails (and especially Account Takeovers) is multi-factor authentication. It’s a must-have for companies these days and an easy way to protect your passwords, data, identity and more. While it might be annoying to get an authentication code texted or mailed to you every time you sign into a system, it’s a small price to pay for not getting hacked. That said, for anyone who does use multi-factor authentication, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a victim of Account Takeover. Sure, it makes it harder to take over your account, but what you really have to look out for is the other guy. That’s right. Every vendor, friend, relative, or colleague whose email credentials could be compromised, might send you an unsuspecting phishing email if their account is taken over.

What Can Happen Once an Account Has Been Taken Over?

The phishing emails that are sent as part of an account takeover come in many forms. In fact, new schemes are devised every day. The ultimate goal of an Account Takeover is to trick the victim’s contacts into costly mistakes that allow the cybercriminal to:

  • Access an online banking account
  • Be paid for phony invoices
  • Order goods through a company’s merchant account
  • Unlock corporate records and sensitive data
  • Steal loyalty points
  • Harvest customer data
  • Make unauthorized purchases
  • Extort money from you in exchange for your account credentials

To put this in perspective, in 2019, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received 23,775 complaints of compromised emails, totally more than $1.7 billion in losses.1 Sadly, today’s Secure Email Gateways (SEGs) don’t have the intuition necessary to identify an Account Takeover. That’s because when a hijacker has your email credentials, the phishing email they send comes from their familiar name and even from their server.

How Do You Solve Account Takeover?

“Now that I think of it, that email sounded nothing like you.”

Whether you’re a published author or John Doe sending an email, you have a certain style. Your word choices, sentence structure, and even the breadth of your vocabulary are all indicators of who is writing what. That’s stylometry.

Much in the same way a high school teacher can spot a plagiarized term paper from an original, INKY gets to know her users so that she can keep an eye out for anyone trying to impersonate them with a phishing email or Account Takeover. Stylometry is a powerful tool in INKY’s toolbox, providing Account Takeover protection like no one else can.


Learn more about the science behind Stylometry in this 'Understanding Phishing' Guide.


Get Protected From Account Takeovers

Not all phish are created equal and Account Takeovers are the piranha of the phishing cyber-world. The best way to avoid having them sink their teeth into you or your employees is to is by adding an advanced level of email phishing prevention to your security platform. INKY not only detects Account Takeovers using stylometry, we also use an unprecedented combination of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and computer vision to stop phishing emails and keep your company safe. But don’t take our word for it. See for yourself with a free demonstration.

INKY® is the emerging hero in the war against phishing. An award-winning cloud-based email security solution, INKY® prevents the most complex phishing threats from disrupting or even immobilizing your company’s day-to-day business operations. Using computer vision, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, INKY® is the smartest investment you can make in the security of your organization. INKY® is a proud winner of the NYCx Cybersecurity Moonshot Challenge and finalist in the 2020 RSAC Innovation Sandbox Competition. Learn more about INKY® or request an online demonstration today.