In the world of IT and security, everyone is trying to get better on both ends. As technology defenses get stronger and tighter, cybercriminals are getting better at getting past these restrictions.
However, humans are, without a doubt, the weakest link in IT security architecture, and everyone knows that. And one of the numerous strategies cybercriminals are increasingly relying on is social engineering.
Social engineers employ various online and offline techniques to trick unsuspecting customers into jeopardizing their security, transferring money, or disclosing confidential information.
This article defines social engineering, explains its processes, and highlights the many social engineering tactics that may be aimed at your organization and how to protect against them.
What Is Social Engineering?
Social engineering is the process of manipulating, persuading, or misleading a victim to obtain access to private information that is (or is not) on a computer system. It employs psychological manipulation to dupe users into disclosing sensitive information.
Hence, it must be said that social engineering is not, at its core, a cyber assault. Instead, social engineering is all about persuasion and psychology, targeting the subject’s mind just like a con artist or street swindler would. The goal is to earn the subject’s trust so that they relax their guard and then persuade them to make unsafe decisions such as disclosing personal information, clicking on malicious web links, or opening email attachments.
How Does Social Engineering Work?
A typical social engineering process involves a cybercriminal getting familiar with the target while seeming to be from a reputable business. In rare circumstances, they might imitate a person known to the victim.
If this goes according to plan (the target believes the social engineer is who they claim to be), the attacker will go further. This might include disclosing confidential information such as dates of birth, bank account information, or passwords. Another way is to convince the target to visit a website having malware that can cause havoc to the target’s PC.
Social Engineering Attack Methods
Social engineering attacks can assume many forms and be carried out as long as human interaction exists. Below are some types of social engineering assaults:
Phishing attackers act as trustworthy firms or individuals to get you to reveal personal information and other assets. Phishing attacks are directed in these ways:
- Spam phishing – Also known as mass phishing, this is an attack that targets a large number of victims. These assaults are impersonal and are not aimed at a specific victim. Rather, the plan is to catch anyone that falls into the trap.
- Spear phishing – Spear phishing and, by extension, whaling, employ tailored information to target specific people. Whaling is aimed at high-value targets such as C-level executives, celebrities, and high-ranking government employees. In 2020, almost 30% of businesses globally were hit with at least one spear-phishing attack.
- Vishing – Vishing, often known as voice phishing, is using social engineering over calls to get private information from the victim.
Attackers lure users into unwittingly compromising their security, such as dropping infected gadgets where targets can pick them up and connect them to company devices or networks.
This entails convincing the victim that their computer is afflicted with malware or that they have unwittingly downloaded illegal apps or tools. The attacker then offers the victim a remedy to the phony problem; in actuality, the target is tricked into downloading the attacker’s malware.
Offline diversion theft entails intercepting delivery by convincing couriers to deliver to the incorrect place. They entail stealing sensitive information online by enticing victims to transfer it to the wrong recipient.
Quid pro quo
This is a social engineering assault in which the attacker promises to supply something in return for the target’s information or help. For example, a hacker may phone a random number within a company and pose as a technical support professional replying to a request. Eventually, the hacker will identify someone with an actual tech problem and pretend to assist them. The hacker can use this interaction to have the victim type in commands to obtain passwords or launch malware.
Attackers pose as sexually interested in the victim to convince them to divulge money or sensitive information.
This is a social engineering attack in which a person goes through individual or corporation garbage for any information that might be used to gain access to the organization’s network.
Pharming attacks use system weaknesses to match domain names with IP addresses to divert traffic from a website to a malicious site that impersonates it.
Preventing Social Engineering
The following strategies might help you become more aware of and be able to ward off social engineering attacks:
Implement Multifactor Authentication
User credentials are one of the most important pieces of information that attackers want. Using multifactor authentication helps to secure your account in the case of a system intrusion.
Using spam filters is another good option, as they can identify which emails are likely to be spam. A spam filter may contain a blacklist of questionable IP addresses or sender IDs, or it may identify suspicious files or links and examine the content of all emails to decide which are potentially fraudulent.
Constant Software Updating
Ensure you keep all antivirus software and antimalware updated to help stop malware from being installed in phishing emails.
Implement Cybersecurity Training for Staff
Implement a cybersecurity awareness training program to help prevent social engineering attacks. Users will be less likely to become victims if they know how social engineering attacks work.
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