5 Effective Strategies to Stop Account Sharing on Offer & Survey Platforms
Account sharing is a critical challenge faced by owners and managers of offer and survey platforms. It undermines the integrity of their services, sabotages the authenticity of user data, and jeopardizes the trust of marketing teams and advertisers who utilize the platforms. By understanding the various types of fraud tactics employed by fraudsters, platform operators can take necessary measures to stop account sharing and ensure the validity of their user base.
This article delves into five effective strategies that can aid in combating account sharing while maintaining user authenticity. It explores not only the mechanisms behind each approach but also offers insights into implementing these strategies for your particular offer or survey platform. With the help of this knowledge, web developers, tech professionals, startup founders, and industry experts can be empowered to address the issue of account sharing head-on and maintain the integrity of their platforms.
The five strategies that we are going to present target different aspects of account sharing. They include device and browser fingerprinting, emulator and virtual machine detection, advanced captcha systems, IP geolocation and impossible travel identification, and disposable/temporary email detection and VOIP phone detection. Each strategy offers specific advantages and challenges that should be weighed carefully when planning and implementing measures against account sharing.
By understanding the various approaches to preventing account sharing and their potential implications, stakeholders in the offer and survey platform industry can make informed decisions. This, in turn, will help to foster trust, maintain the integrity of data collected, and uphold the value of the products and services delivered by offer and survey platforms.
Stay tuned as we delve into these five effective strategies in detail, evaluating their pros and cons, and providing tactical implementation guidance tailored to the evolving security landscape in the offer and survey platform markets.
Strategy 1: Device and Browser Fingerprinting
What is device and browser fingerprinting
Device and browser fingerprinting is the process of collecting and analyzing data from the user's device and browser to create a unique identifier that distinguishes them from other users. This identifier, also known as a fingerprint, can then be used to track and monitor user activities and detect potential account sharing or fraudulent behavior.
How it works
- Parameters used for fingerprinting: Data collected can include browser type and version, screen size and resolution, installed plugins, language settings, operating system, hardware information, and many other unique characteristics.
- Identification of unique fingerprints: Once the data is collected, advanced algorithms and machine learning techniques are used to create a unique fingerprint that can be associated with a specific device or browser.
Pros & Cons
- Efficient for multiple account creation and browser fingerprint manipulation: Fingerprinting can significantly reduce instances of multiple account creation as each device is uniquely identified, which makes it more challenging for fraudsters to create multiple accounts using the same device/browser.
- Resilience to common fraud tactics: Browser fingerprinting is an effective countermeasure against IP spoofing, VPN/proxy usage, and other attempts by fraudsters to mask their identity.
- May require continuous updates to ensure accuracy: As developers continually update browsers and operating systems, fingerprinting methods must also be updated to maintain accuracy and effectiveness.
- Potential privacy concerns: Users may be concerned about their privacy, as tracking unique device/browser information could be considered invasive. It is essential to maintain transparency and clearly explain why fingerprinting is necessary to maintain platform integrity.
- Integration of fingerprinting SDK or API: To implement device and browser fingerprinting, platform owners can integrate an SDK or API that specializes in fingerprinting technology. These SDKs and APIs provide the necessary tools to gather and analyze the user's device/browser information, generate the fingerprints, and store them for future reference.
- Analysis of fingerprint data to identify and block suspicious devices: Once fingerprint data is collected and documented, it should be closely analyzed to detect suspicious patterns or behaviors that may indicate account sharing or fraudulent activities. If a device/browser is detected to be involved in such activities, the platform can take preventive action such as blocking the device, suspending the user account, or requiring additional verification.
By employing device and browser fingerprinting, offer and survey platforms can take a proactive approach to identify and counteract fraudulent behavior and account sharing, ensuring the authenticity of their user base and maintaining trust among their clients and partners.
Strategy 2: Emulator and Virtual Machine Detection
What is emulator and virtual machine detection
Emulator and virtual machine detection is a security measure designed to identify and restrict access to a platform for users that are operating within emulated environments or virtual machines (VMs). Emulators are software programs that simulate the behavior of specific hardware or operating systems, while virtual machines are software-based environments that create a separate, isolated space on a host computer.
These technologies can be used by fraudsters to create multiple fake accounts and bypass device restrictions, enabling account sharing and undermining platform security measures. By detecting and blocking access from these environments, offer and survey platforms can more effectively prevent unauthorized account sharing.
How it works
Detection methods and algorithms for identifying emulated environments and virtual machines typically rely on examining various system parameters and characteristics that are unique to these setups. For example:
- Certain hardware and software configurations that are consistent with an emulated environment, such as hypervisors or virtualized devices.
- Unique identifiers or anomalies in the operating system or application runtime that suggest the presence of a virtual machine.
- Observable performance and timing discrepancies that are not typical of genuine, native environments.
By analyzing these and other factors, emulator and VM detection tools can identify and block access from users attempting to mask their identities or create fraudulent accounts using these technologies.
Pros & Cons
The primary benefits of implementing emulator and virtual machine detection include:
- Hindering the ability for bad actors to create multiple accounts, which helps maintain the integrity of offer and survey platform data and limits the potential for abuse.
- Reducing the risk of device ID spoofing, a common tactic used to fake device fingerprints and avoid detection.
However, there are also some challenges and potential drawbacks to consider:
- Sophisticated emulators and virtual machines can be difficult to detect due to deliberate efforts by developers to hide their presence and mimic native environments.
- False positives may occur, inadvertently blocking legitimate users who are accessing the platform through virtual machines for valid reasons, such as software testing or remote work.
To effectively implement emulator and virtual machine detection for your offer and survey platform, consider the following steps:
Research and choose a suitable detection library or SDK that specifically targets emulator and VM detection. Options include both open-source and commercial solutions, with varying levels of detection capabilities and customization options.
Integrate the library or SDK with your platform's backend system, ensuring that it is configured to analyze and appropriately flag any suspicious devices attempting to access your platform during the account creation and login process.
Continuously monitor the performance of your emulator and VM detection solution, refining and updating detection rules as needed. This may involve staying up-to-date with the latest developments in emulation and virtualization technology, as well as collaborating with your platform's development team to proactively address potential vulnerabilities.
Implement a user-friendly response system for users flagged as operating within an emulator or VM environment. This may involve displaying a clear notification or prompt, directing the user to use a genuine device or provide additional verification to confirm their authenticity.
By taking these steps, you can more effectively protect your offer and survey platform from account sharing facilitated by emulator and virtual machine usage, ensuring a more secure and reliable environment for both your users and your business.
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Strategy 3: Advanced Captcha
What is advanced captcha
Advanced captcha is an upgraded version of traditional captcha (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) challenges that are designed to protect online platforms from automated bots and fraudulent activity. Advanced captcha takes advantage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced validation techniques to differentiate between legitimate human users and automated systems attempting to gain unauthorized access to a platform.
How it works
- AI-powered systems: Advanced captcha solutions use machine learning algorithms to identify patterns and behaviors of human interactions, which help them distinguish between legitimate human users and bots.
- Differentiating human and automated interactions: These systems present challenges in various forms, such as identifying objects in images, solving mathematical problems, or completing a puzzle. They make it difficult for automated bots to bypass the captcha challenges, ensuring that only genuine users can access the offer or survey platform.
Pros & Cons
- Effective against CAPTCHA bypassing: Advanced captcha has proven to be more effective in preventing fraudulent activity than traditional text-based captcha, as these solutions are more challenging for automation tools and scripts to solve.
- May cause friction for legitimate users: One possible downside of using advanced captcha is that it may create friction for legitimate users who may find it time-consuming or challenging to solve complex challenges. Businesses must balance the effectiveness of advanced captcha in preventing fraud against the potential harm it may cause to user experience.
- Selecting a sophisticated captcha provider: Choose a reputable and sophisticated captcha provider that specializes in advanced captcha solutions. Look for providers with a strong track record of preventing bot attacks and fraud on various online platforms. Read reviews and ask for recommendations from other offer and survey platform owners who have successfully implemented advanced captcha solutions to prevent account sharing.
- Integrating the captcha system with the registration and login process: Once a suitable provider has been selected, integrate the advanced captcha system into your offer or survey platform's registration and login processes. This could involve adding the captcha challenge to the account creation process or incorporating an additional step during the login flow, especially for suspicious activities. Ensure that the integration is seamless and doesn't disrupt the user experience.
Strategy 4: IP Geolocation and Impossible Travel
What is IP Geolocation and Impossible Travel Detection
IP geolocation is the process of determining the geographical location of an Internet-connected device using its IP address. Impossible travel detection is the identification of suspicious account activity involving logins from different geographical locations within a certain time frame, which is practically impossible based on the actual travel time required between these locations.
Both IP geolocation and impossible travel detection can be used as effective methods to prevent account sharing on offer and survey platforms by analyzing user login patterns and identifying any abnormal behavior that might indicate the sharing of account credentials.
How it works
IP Geolocation Databases: Various organizations maintain databases containing IP address assignments by geographic location. When a user logs in to an offer or survey platform, the platform can use an IP geolocation database to identify the user's geographical location based on their IP address.
Monitoring Login Patterns: Once the platform has access to a user's location data, it can monitor the user's login patterns over time and flag any instances where two logins from geographically distant locations take place within a time frame that is not consistent with the actual travel time required between these locations.
Detection of Unusual Travel Instances: The platform can then identify whether the user's login behavior indicates the use of shared account credentials. If so, the platform may respond by implementing additional authentication measures or suspending the user's account.
Pros & Cons
- Counteracts various account-sharing methods, such as proxy usage, VPN usage, social engineering, and shared account databases.
- Helps maintain the platform's user authenticity and legitimacy by detecting suspicious login patterns involving geographical inconsistencies.
- Requires ongoing maintenance and updates of the IP geolocation database to ensure accurate location information.
- The system may need to be fine-tuned to avoid generating false positives for legitimate users who have unusual login patterns due to travel or the use of VPNs for privacy purposes.
Implementing a Geolocation API: To leverage IP geolocation for preventing account sharing, platforms can integrate a geolocation API (Application Programming Interface) that provides access to IP location data. There are several reliable geolocation APIs available on the market, such as IP2Location, MaxMind, and Ipapi.
Monitoring User Login Patterns: Once the geolocation API is integrated, the platform should monitor user login patterns over time and flag any instances of unusual login behavior based on IP address and geographical location. This can be done by comparing the time elapsed between consecutive logins from different IP addresses and determining whether it is consistent with the travel time required between the corresponding geographic locations.
Developing Mechanisms to Alert or Prompt Additional Verification for Flagged Users: When a user's login pattern indicates potential account sharing or other suspicious activity, the platform can alert the user and/or prompt them for additional verification (such as two-factor authentication or answer security questions) before allowing them to continue accessing the platform. Alternatively, the platform may choose to suspend the user's account until further investigation can be conducted.
By implementing IP geolocation and impossible travel detection, offer and survey platforms can significantly reduce the chances of account sharing and maintain a high level of user authenticity, ultimately protecting the integrity of the data and insights gathered from these platforms.
Strategy 5: Disposable/Temporary Email Detection and VOIP Phone Detection
What is disposable/temporary email detection and VOIP phone detection
Disposable or temporary email detection is a technique used to identify and restrict users from registering or logging in using email addresses that are temporary or created for one-time use. These disposable email addresses are used by fraudsters to create multiple accounts and engage in account sharing without being traced. VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone detection involves identifying virtual phone numbers that can be easily created or manipulated by users to bypass restrictions on phone-based registration and verification processes.
The aim of these detection methods is to ensure that users provide valid and verifiable email addresses and phone numbers while setting up accounts, making it difficult for fraudsters to create multiple accounts and share them across various devices and users.
How it works
Email verification system: Disposable/temporary email detection involves using an email verification system that maintains an updated database of known temporary email services, disposable email domains, and patterns used within such email addresses. It also checks for the existence and validity of email addresses to prevent the registration of accounts with invalid or disposable email addresses.
Phone number validation system: VOIP phone detection involves using a comprehensive phone number validation system that identifies VOIP-generated and other virtual numbers which can be spoofed by fraudsters. It can also match phone number patterns with known VOIP and virtual phone service providers to determine the authenticity of the provided phone numbers.
Pros & Cons
Reduces multiple account creation: By detecting and blocking disposable email addresses and VOIP-generated phone numbers, platforms can significantly reduce the ability of fraudsters to create multiple accounts and engage in account sharing.
Disrupts collaboration and coordination fraud tactics: Preventing the use of disposable email addresses and VOIP phone numbers impedes the communication and coordination efforts of fraudsters when plotting account sharing schemes on offer and survey platforms.
- False positives: Some legitimate users may be using disposable emails or VOIP phone numbers for genuine reasons (e.g., preserving privacy or minimizing spam). Preventing such users from creating accounts or logging in might lead to the loss of potential legitimate users or increased friction in their user journey.
Deploying email verification and phone validation APIs: To implement effective disposable/temporary email detection and VOIP phone number detection, it is crucial to integrate reliable and updated email verification and phone validation APIs. These APIs should have access to comprehensive databases of disposable email domains, temporary email services, and known VOIP and virtual phone service providers. This will facilitate real-time checks during user registration and ensure that only valid and verifiable email addresses and phone numbers are used for creating accounts on the platform.
Establishing rules to restrict temporary emails and VOIP phones during registration: Once the email verification and phone validation APIs are integrated, set up rules and restrictions to block disposable email addresses and VOIP-generated phone numbers from being used during user registration. This will enforce the requirement of valid and unique email addresses and phone numbers for account creation, making it more difficult for fraudsters to create multiple accounts and engage in account sharing.
Periodic monitoring and updates: Keep the email verification and phone validation systems continuously updated and perform periodic checks to identify new disposable email domains and VOIP service providers. This proactive approach will not only help in maintaining the effectiveness of the detection methods but also adapt the system to evolving patterns in account sharing and fraud tactics.
Final Thoughts and Next Steps
As we have discussed, preventing account sharing on offer & survey platforms is crucial for maintaining the platform's integrity and ensuring accurate data collection. The five strategies we have outlined can significantly enhance your platform's security and reduce the risk of fraud:
- Device and Browser Fingerprinting
- Emulator and Virtual Machine Detection
- Advanced Captcha
- IP Geolocation and Impossible Travel
- Disposable/Temporary Email Detection and VOIP Phone Detection
In choosing the right combination of these strategies for your platform, it is essential to consider the resources available and the potential impact on user experience. Balancing user-friendliness with robust security should be a top priority.
To achieve the best possible results, follow these implementation tips:
- Assess the specific account sharing tactics and patterns that your platform faces to prioritize the implementation of the most relevant strategies.
- Integrate third-party APIs and SDKs to speed up implementation and benefit from the expertise of cybersecurity experts.
- Continuously monitor the effectiveness of your chosen strategies and adjust them as needed to respond to evolving fraud tactics and emerging technologies.
- Implement a combination of strategies rather than relying on a single solution to cover a wide range of potential account sharing and fraud scenarios.
- Ensure that you communicate the reasons for implementing these strategies to your legitimate users, so they understand the importance of keeping their accounts secure.
As your platform grows and evolves, fraudsters will likely find new ways to exploit any security weaknesses. Be prepared to continuously adapt and refine your preventive measures to maintain the highest level of security for your offer and survey platform. Stay informed of the latest security trends and best practices in the industry to stay one step ahead of those who wish to undermine your platform's integrity.