Account Takeover / Credential Stuffing / New Account Origination / Phishing

Travel Alert: How Bot Attacks Are Exploiting Loyalty Programs

June 6, 20238 min Read

The convenience and allure of online travel websites cannot be overstated. From booking flights to securing accommodations, these platforms offer seamless experiences for travelers worldwide. However, the dark side of this digital realm emerges in the form of sophisticated bots. Automated bots can infiltrate travel websites with the intention of exploiting vulnerabilities and stealing loyalty points. What was once a hidden threat has now become an alarming reality for businesses and travelers alike. 

Understanding the inner workings of these bots is the first step to warding off loyalty point fraud, a threat retailers, travel operators, and the hospitality sector are feeling. 

From brute force attacks to credential stuffing and account takeovers, bad actors have plenty of ways to infiltrate loyalty programs and siphon off hard-earned rewards. These attacks not only erode customer trust, but they also bring about significant financial losses for both parties involved. Travel businesses today need robust security measures to protect their platforms and safeguard customer loyalty points. 

Travel Site Protects Business Critical Loyalty Points with Arkose Labs
Travel Site Protects Business Critical Loyalty Points with Arkose Labs

Why cybercriminals target loyalty points

Cybercriminals target loyalty points for several reasons. Firstly, loyalty points have a tangible monetary value, making them an attractive target for theft and fraud. Compromised loyalty accounts provide bad actors with access to a valuable currency that can be monetized or sold on the dark web. Also, loyalty points often have weaker security measures compared to other financial assets, making them an easier target. 

Loyalty points can also be utilized to fund illicit activities and money laundering, taking advantage of the large user base and transaction volume within loyalty programs. The accumulation of loyalty points over time, coupled with infrequent monitoring by customers, allows criminals to operate undetected for extended periods, maximizing their gains before being discovered.

Here are a few other types of loyalty fraud to watch for: 

Account Takeover: In this type of loyalty fraud, criminals gain unauthorized access to a user's loyalty account by obtaining or guessing login credentials. Once they gain control, they can manipulate account settings, make unauthorized redemptions, or transfer points to other accounts. Account takeover can occur through various methods, including phishing attacks, credential stuffing, or malware.

Fake Redemptions: In this form of loyalty fraud, attackers exploit vulnerabilities in the redemption process to dishonestly claim rewards or benefits. They may create fake accounts, forge documentation, or use stolen credit cards to make fraudulent redemptions. This type of fraud not only impacts the loyalty program but also affects legitimate customers who may find rewards or inventory depleted due to these illicit activities.

Point Manipulation: In point manipulation fraud, criminals manipulate the loyalty program's rules or systems to inflate their points balance or gain undeserved benefits. This can involve exploiting loopholes, conducting unauthorized transfers, or engaging in fraudulent activities to accrue points illegitimately. Point manipulation can lead to financial losses for businesses and erode customer trust in the fairness and integrity of the loyalty program.

How to protect loyalty point programs

To protect loyalty point programs from the growing threat of bot attacks, travel businesses must implement proactive security measures. Here are some key strategies to consider:

Robust Authentication and Authorization: Implement a strong authentication system that includes multi-factor authentication and secure password policies. This will make it harder for bots to gain unauthorized access to customer accounts. Additionally, utilize advanced authorization mechanisms to ensure that only legitimate users can perform critical actions such as redeeming or transferring loyalty points.

Real-Time Monitoring and Anomaly Detection: Employ sophisticated monitoring systems that can identify suspicious activities and anomalies in user behavior. By analyzing patterns and deviations from normal usage, businesses can detect and respond to bot attacks promptly. Real-time monitoring allows for immediate action, such as blocking suspicious IP addresses or freezing accounts that exhibit unusual behavior.

CAPTCHA and Bot Detection: Integrate CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) or similar bot-detection mechanisms into loyalty program portals. CAPTCHA challenges help differentiate between human users and automated bots, creating an additional layer of defense against fraudulent activities.

Rate Limiting and IP Blocking: Implement rate-limiting mechanisms to restrict the number of requests made by an IP address or user account within a specific time frame. This prevents bots from launching brute force attacks or overwhelming the system with excessive requests. IP blocking can also be employed to blacklist suspicious IP addresses known to be associated with bot activities.

By adopting a comprehensive approach that combines technical safeguards, monitoring systems, and user education, travel businesses can significantly reduce the risk of bot attacks on their loyalty point programs. By prioritizing the protection of customer accounts and loyalty rewards, they can also ensure a secure and rewarding experience for their valued customers.

Customer tips for beating loyalty point fraud

To avoid loyalty point fraud, businesses can recommend these tips to customers: 

Regular Account Monitoring:

Advise members to treat their loyalty programs with the same level of vigilance as their financial accounts. Given the substantial value often associated with loyalty programs, customers should regularly review their accounts to ensure they have not been compromised or tampered with.

Utilize Enhanced Security Features:

Promote the use of additional security measures, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), whenever available. Encourage members to take advantage of these options as each added layer of security makes it increasingly challenging for bad actors to gain unauthorized access.

Exercise Caution with Travel Promotions:

Educate customers on the importance of being cautious when encountering travel promotion emails and social media posts. Emphasize the significance of clear communication channels for promotions and the need to exercise skepticism toward offers that appear too good to be true. Help members recognize that unsolicited email offers and spontaneous social media deals are often phishing attempts aimed at stealing personal data, including login credentials and credit card information. 

Encourage customers to verify the legitimacy of the sender's email address or contact the loyalty program directly (avoiding the provided email or social media post) to confirm the authenticity of the offer or request before responding or providing any sensitive information.

By sharing these professional tips, you can empower loyalty program members to actively protect their points and rewards from potential fraud. Proactive monitoring, enhanced security measures, and cautiousness in evaluating travel promotions will contribute to a more secure loyalty program environment and maintain customer trust.

Arkose Labs solves for bot attacks and loyalty point fraud

Arkose Bot Manager is a powerful solution designed to combat loyalty point fraud and bot attacks on travel sites. Here's how Arkose Bot Manager helps in this fight:

Bot Detection and Mitigation: Arkose Bot Manager employs advanced techniques to identify and block malicious bots attempting to exploit loyalty point programs. It analyzes user behavior patterns, device fingerprinting, and real-time data to distinguish between human users and automated bots. By accurately detecting and mitigating bot activity, Arkose Bot Manager safeguards loyalty point systems from fraudulent attacks.

Adaptive Enforcement Challenges: To verify the authenticity of users and thwart fraudsters, Arkose Bot Manager employs the adaptive enforcement challenges of Arkose MatchKey. These challenges present interactive puzzles or tests that are difficult for bots to solve but easy for legitimate users. By implementing Arkose MatchKey seamlessly, Arkose Bot Manager ensures a frictionless user experience while effectively deterring and frustrating automated bots.

Global Threat Intelligence: Arkose Labs maintains an extensive network of global threat intelligence, constantly monitoring and analyzing bot activity and fraud trends across various industries, including travel. By leveraging this intelligence, businesses stay up-to-date with emerging threats and evolving fraud techniques specific to loyalty point programs. This allows travel sites to proactively protect their loyalty programs from the latest bot attacks.

Real-Time Reporting and Analytics: Arkose Bot Manager provides comprehensive reporting and analytics in real-time. It offers detailed insights into bot activity, including the types of attacks, origins of bots, and patterns of fraudulent behavior. This information enables travel sites to gain a deeper understanding of loyalty point fraud and make data-driven decisions to strengthen their defenses.

Continuous Optimization and Support: Arkose Labs offers continuous optimization and support to travel sites. With a team of experts, organizations can closely collaborate to analyze and fine-tune the bot detection and mitigation strategies. This ongoing support ensures that the loyalty point programs are constantly fortified against emerging threats and evolving attack techniques.

By leveraging advanced bot detection, adaptive enforcement challenges, global threat intelligence, real-time reporting, and continuous optimization, Arkose Bot Manager effectively fights loyalty point fraud and bot attacks on travel sites. It helps protect loyalty programs, preserve the integrity of rewards, and maintain a secure online environment for both businesses and their customers.

Find out how Arkose Labs can protect your travel business from bot attacks and loyalty fraud, talk to an expert today!