Understanding Carding Bots: Protecting Your Nonprofit from Online Threats

Samantha Ste Marie2023-11-06

Demystify the world of carding attacks and safeguard your nonprofit from online threats. Learn how to recognize carding bots, take immediate action, and implement essential security measures to protect your financial resources and the trust of your supporters.

If the world of carding attacks and cyber threats feels intimidating and confusing, you're not alone. Many of us, including myself, aren't tech wizards or computer geeks. The idea of carding bots can be daunting.

But fear not! 

I've done the research and consulted our team of, well, tech enthusiasts (or perhaps tech nerds, as some may affectionately call them) to bring you the best practices and tips to safeguard your nonprofit from carding attacks.

These malicious activities involve the use of automated scripts, known as carding bots, to test the validity of stolen credit card data. Nonprofits, despite their altruistic missions, are not exempt from these cyber threats.

Adding to the concern is the disturbing trend within the cybercriminal world. Online forums and dark web communities now share lists of nonprofits that have been successfully used for card testing. Some disheartening examples are the inclusion of Red Cross Canada, Make a Wish Foundation of America, and CNIB Foundation, in these lists.

This alarming trend underscores the urgency for nonprofits to protect their online operations effectively. In this guide, we will dive into a series of essential security measures known as checkout security measures. 

By implementing these measures, your nonprofit can build a robust defense against carding attacks, safeguarding your financial resources and maintaining the trust of your supporters.

What is a Carding Bot?

A carding bot is a malevolent automated script used by criminal organizations to test the validity of stolen credit card data. This cybercrime tactic, known as carding fraud, card stuffing, credit card stuffing, or card verification, involves running thousands of small purchases using stolen credit card numbers. 

The perpetrators behind these activities later resell the "successful" cards to organized crime rings. The consequences of such an attack can be dire, leading to poor merchant history, chargeback penalties, wasted admin time and other issues, even for well-intentioned charities and nonprofits.

Carding Bots vs. Website Hacking

While website hacking, like carding bots, is a form of an online attack, website hacking focuses on finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in a website's security to gain unauthorized access to its data or resources. Techniques used in website hacking can include SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and brute-force attacks. Once a hacker gains access to a website, they can steal sensitive data, deface the site, or install malware that can infect visitors.

The main difference between a carding bot and website hacking is that carding bots are specifically designed to test stolen credit cards, while website hacking involves exploiting security vulnerabilities in a website to gain unauthorized access to its data or resources.

Recognizing a Carding Attack

If you suspect your nonprofit is under a carding attack, look out for a spike in fraudulent contributions or donations.

Once identified, there are immediate steps you should take:

1. Try to Stop the Carding Attack

When you suspect that your nonprofit is experiencing a carding attack, it's essential to take immediate action to stop the attack in its tracks.

Here are some steps to consider:

Monitor Transactions: 

Keep a close eye on your organization's online transactions. Look for patterns of unusual or suspicious activity, such as multiple small or identical transactions within a short time frame. This may indicate a carding attack in progress.

Block Suspicious IPs: 

Review your website's access logs to identify the IP addresses from which these suspicious transactions are originating. You can then block or restrict access from these IPs. This is a preventive measure that can deter the attackers from continuing their efforts.

Contact Your Payment Gateway Provider: 

Reach out to your payment gateway provider or processor as soon as you suspect a carding attack. They may be able to offer assistance and guidance on how to handle the situation effectively.

Adjust Security Settings: 

If your payment processing system allows for it, consider adjusting your security settings to make it more challenging for the carding bots to operate. This can include implementing measures like CAPTCHA or increasing the minimum payment amount.

Monitor Continuously: 

Carding attacks can be persistent, so it's important to maintain vigilance and continue monitoring transactions even after you've taken initial steps to stop the attack. This ongoing vigilance can help prevent further damage.

2. Refund/Void and Mark Authorizations as Spam

Once you've identified fraudulent transactions that have been processed due to the carding attack, the next step is to reverse these transactions and label them as spam.

Here's how to do it:

Refund or Void Transactions: 

If you've identified specific transactions that are part of the carding attack, initiate refunds or voids for these transactions. Refunds return the money to the cardholder, while voiding cancels the transaction before it's settled. This helps prevent chargebacks and protects your nonprofit from financial losses.

Mark Authorizations as Spam: 

In addition to reversing the transactions, it's a good practice to label these authorizations as spam or fraudulent within your payment processing system. This information can be invaluable in preventing future attempts by the same attackers and can also serve as a record for any potential disputes.

Review and Report: 

Take the time to review the affected transactions to gather insights into the attack. Note any common characteristics or patterns in the data. Reporting the attack to relevant authorities and industry organizations may be necessary, especially if it's part of a larger trend affecting nonprofits.

Implement Preventive Measures: 

Once you've dealt with the immediate threat, consider implementing the preventive measures discussed earlier in the blog post, such as CAPTCHA, matching billing and IP countries, and setting a minimum payment amount. These measures can help protect your nonprofit from future carding attacks.

Safeguarding Your Nonprofit from Carding Attacks

To fortify your nonprofit against online threats, such as carding attacks, it's crucial to understand and implement effective measures to deter carding bots. By deploying checkout security measures, you make it more challenging for both bots and humans to complete payments and donations. 

You can require CAPTCHA, which distinguishes humans from machines, or enforce a requirement for the billing country to match the IP country. You can also set a minimum payment amount to deter carding bots from making nominal charges.

Let’s delve deeper into these security measures and explore the implementation of CAPTCHA, enforcing the requirement for the billing country to match the IP country, setting a minimum payment amount, and even resorting to the extreme measure of temporarily suspending payment processing.

Require CAPTCHA: 

This method forces users to prove they are human, making it an effective deterrent for most carding bot attacks. You can manage how CAPTCHA behaves, such as requiring it for every supporter or only after a failed payment attempt.

Require Billing Country to Match IP Country: 

By ensuring the billing country matches the IP country, you can prevent someone from charging a North American card from a computer with a non-North American IP. Use this feature carefully, as there are legitimate reasons for international transactions.

Minimum Payment Amount: 

Set a minimum payment amount to thwart carding bots that typically charge small amounts to test cards. Set the default setting on your fundraising software checkout, but be sure to check your payment gateway's setting to avoid conflicts.

Stop Accepting Payments: 

In extreme cases, you can shut down payment processing temporarily. This should not affect automated recurring payments or point-of-sale transactions but is a last resort.

Protecting Your Nonprofit From Carding Bots

I hope you found this content helpful in demystifying the world of carding attacks and bolstering your nonprofit's defenses. As someone who's not a payment tech expert myself, I understand the initial confusion and concerns that can arise when facing these online threats.

So, from one non-tech whizz to another, rest assured that you can navigate this digital landscape and keep your nonprofit safe from carding attacks. With these measures in place, you can continue your meaningful work in the online realm, knowing that your organization's mission remains secure and your supporters' trust is well-placed.


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