What is Social Engineering?
Social engineering is a manipulation technique used by cyber criminals to trick people into giving up confidential information.
Social engineering relies on the basic human instinct of trust to steal personal and corporate information that can be used to commit further cyber crimes.
For example, a cyber criminal might use social engineering to convince an employee to divulge company passwords. The cyber criminal then uses these passwords to access corporate networks to steal data and install malware on the company network.
All it takes is an email, phone call, or text message disguised as coming from a colleague, friend, or known company, and the cyber criminal has won. The cyber criminal may use a familiar yet urgent tone to convince the victim to update their banking information or tell the victim that they must provide their credit card information to claim their prize.
Social engineering is hard to defend against because human beings are unpredictable. There is no way of knowing who will fall for a social engineering attack. Cyber criminals hope to catch the victim off-guard when they forget to remain alert to cyber attacks.
How to Protect Your Data from Social Engineering
Learn how to detect common social engineering tactics and threats and protect confidential data from cybercriminals.
Why Do Cyber Criminals Use Social Engineering?
Cyber criminals will use social engineering techniques for a variety of reasons.
One of the most common reasons cyber criminals use social engineering is to try and gain access to sensitive information. They may pose as a legitimate company or individual to trick someone into giving them login credentials, financial information, or other types of data they can use for their purposes.
Another reason why cyber criminals turn to social engineering is to spread malware. They may send out phishing emails containing links or attachments infected with malware. Suppose someone clicks on the link or opens the attachment. In that case, they may unknowingly install the malware on their computer, which can give the cyber criminal access to their system and any sensitive information stored on it.
Social engineering can be a very effective way for cyber criminals to achieve their goals. That's why it's essential for everyone to be aware of the techniques that they may use and to be cautious when sharing information or clicking on links.
Why Is Social Engineering So Dangerous?
Social engineering is so dangerous because people make mistakes. Although victims know they need to be suspicious of emails that promise refunds or phone calls that tell them they'll be arrested immediately if they don't provide their tax information, people get caught off-guard.
Further, social engineering poses the following risks:
Lack of security knowledge
One of the most prominent challenges organizations face regarding social engineering is that many employees lack the knowledge to identify and defend against these types of attacks.
This lack of security awareness can have disastrous consequences, as social engineering attacks are designed to exploit human weaknesses. By tricking people into revealing sensitive information or downloading malicious software, attackers can gain access to critical systems and data.
Oversharing on Social Media
Most people know the dangers of oversharing on social media, but many still do it. Why? Because it's fun and easy to share information about our lives with friends and family. But many people don't realize that oversharing can also make us and our loved ones vulnerable to social engineering attacks.
Social engineers use deception and manipulation to get us to disclose sensitive information or perform actions that we wouldn't normally do. They may pose as friends or family members or pretend to be from a trusted organization like a bank or government agency. And they often target people who are more likely to share personal information on social media.
If you're the type of person who always asks questions and tries to learn more about everything around you, you may be at risk for social engineering. Social engineers use manipulation and deception to get others to do what they want. They often target curious people because they easily trick them into giving up information or doing something they shouldn't.
If you're always asking questions and trying to learn more, be sure to do so safely and securely. Don't give out personal information or click on links from strangers. Be cautious of who you talk to and what you say. Curiosity is an excellent quality, but it's important to be aware of the risks that come with it.
Social engineering success relies on human nature – being busy, not paying attention, being too trustworthy, complacency, and simply forgetting the basics of cyber security awareness. It is not unheard of for people to be repeat victims of social engineering attacks.
It's much easier for cyber criminals to hack a human than a company network. For this exact reason, it's crucial that you focus on people-centric cyber security awareness training. Putting your people first gives them the education, resources, and tools to stay aware of social engineering.
How Does Social Engineering Happen?
Social engineering attacks happen with 9 common techniques:
Phishing uses tactics including deceptive emails, websites and text messages to steal confidential personal and corporate information. Criminals using phishing tactics are successful because they carefully hide behind emails and websites familiar to the intended victim.
Spear phishing is a cyber crime that uses emails to carry out targeted attacks against individuals and businesses. Criminals use savvy tactics to collect personal data about their targets and then send email emails that are familiar and trustworthy.
Whaling is a social engineering attack targeting high-level executives or other individuals with access to sensitive information. The attacker uses Phishing or other methods to trick the victim into revealing sensitive data or taking action to give the attacker access to the target's system.
Whaling attacks can damage an organization, leading to the theft of important data or the disruption of critical business processes.
Tailgating is a physical, social engineering technique that relies on trust to gain access to a building or secure area in a building. The criminal may simply walk closely behind someone, slip through an open door, or ask to be "badged in" because they forgot their employee swipe card.
This scam underscores the need for employees to pay attention to who is loitering near doors and never hesitate to ask for identification.
Baiting relies on the human desire for reward. Baiting is both an online and physical social engineering attack that promises the victim something in exchange for their action.
For example, plugging in a USB key or downloading an attachment to receive free movie downloads for life. The computer and potentially the network are then infected by software that can capture login credentials or send fake emails.
Water-holing targets a group of users and the websites they commonly visit. The cyber criminal looks for a security vulnerability in one of these websites and then infects the website with malware.
Eventually, a member of the targeted group is infected by the malware. This type of social engineering is very specific and is hard to detect.
Vishing uses voice mails to convince victims that they need to act quickly, or they could be in trouble with the law or at risk. For example, a criminal may leave a voicemail that urges the victim to reset their banking information because their account has been hacked.
Pretexting is a social engineering technique that uses a false identity to trick victims into giving up information. For example, the cyber criminal may know that the victim recently bought an item from Apple. Hence, the cyber criminal sends an email pretending to be an Apple customer service representative who needs to confirm the victim's credit card information.
Quid pro quo scams rely on an exchange of information to convince the victim to act. This social engineering technique offers a service to the victim in exchange for a benefit.
A common technique is for the criminal to impersonate an IT support employee who calls victims with open support tickets. The cyber criminal promises a quick fix if the person disables their antivirus software or confirms their login credentials.
Malware tricks victims into paying to remove malware, viruses, or other infected software from their computers. Victims are tricked into believing that there is a virus or malware on their computers, and if they pay, they can have it removed.
Depending on the scam, the criminal might only steal the victim's credit card information or install malware or ransomware on the computer.
Voicemail phishing is a type of fraud that uses Voice over IP (VoIP) technology to trick people into giving away personal or financial information. The scammer typically poses as a legitimate organization or individual, such as a bank or government agency, and leaves a recorded message on the victim's VoIP voicemail system.
The message may claim that the person's account has been compromised or that some other urgent matter requires their attention. The scammer then asks the victim to call a number and enter their personal or financial information, which can be used to steal their identity or money.
On the other hand, SMS phishing uses text messages instead of email to trick users into giving away their personal information. The attacker will usually send a text message that appears to be from a legitimate company or service, asking the recipient to click on a link or call a phone number to update their account information.
However, the link or phone number will lead to a fake website or call center where the attacker will try to collect the victim's personal and financial information.
False identities are a vital component of social engineering attacks. By creating a false identity, attackers can gain the trust of their targets and collect sensitive information or perform other malicious actions.
There are many ways to create a false identity, but the most common method is to use stolen or fake credentials. This strategy can be done by purchasing stolen data on the black market or using publicly available information to create a new identity from scratch. Attackers may also use social media to find and impersonate real people.
Once an attacker has created a false identity, they will often use it to build trust with their target. An attacker can send friend requests or messages or participate in online forums and groups. Attackers may also use their false identities to collect sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial information. In some cases, attackers may even use their false identities to commit fraud or other crimes.
How To Prevent Social Engineering Attacks
Invest in your people. Emphasize cyber security awareness to reduce human risk. Use free tools such as phishing simulations, ransomware simulations, and cyber security assessments to strengthen your organization.
Educate your team on the multiple types of social engineering scams. Use real-world examples to show how easy it is for anyone to be caught off guard by social engineering.
Create internal cyber security heroes committed to keeping your organization cyber secure. This encourages your employees to change their behavior.
Create and foster environmental support for behavior change. Create a work environment that inspires learning and encourages security awareness.
Read The Human Fix to Human Risk to learn step-by-step guidelines on developing an effective security awareness program that reinforces proactive awareness.
Benefit from a flexible social engineering awareness training model that uses animated videos, interactive online training, managed security services, microlearning modules, and phishing simulations to provide continual support.
Provide ongoing communication and campaigns about social engineering, cyber security, Phishing, ransomware, and the risks that can come with emails, URLs, attachments, phone calls, and human beings.
Use proven security awareness training and simulation training platforms to provide stimulating and effective security awareness education.
THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO SECURITY AWARENESS TRAINING
The 4 Pillars of Successful Security Awareness Training
People-centric cyber security awareness training is your best line of defense against social engineering attacks.
What is Phishing Simulation?
Phishing simulation is the best way to raise awareness of phishing and social engineering risks. Phishing simulations help you identify which employees are at risk of cybercrimes that use clever social engineering techniques.
Phishing simulation is necessary for a comprehensive cyber security awareness training program.
Real-time phishing simulations are a fast and effective way to educate people and increase awareness of cyber security threats. People see first-hand how Phishing, spear phishing, malware, fake websites, emails, and attachments are used to steal personal and corporate information.
How Can Phishing Simulations Help Prevent Social Engineering Attacks?
Phishing simulations allow you to reinforce to your employees how easy it is to be
a victim of social engineering.
1. Increase the user alertness level to social engineering techniques
2. Change behavior to eliminate the automatic trust response
3. Develop a cyber security culture and create cyber security heroes
4. Measure the degree of corporate and employee vulnerability
5. Eliminate the cyber threat level
6. Deploy targeted anti-social engineering solutions
7. Protect valuable corporate and personal data
8. Meet industry compliance obligations
9. Assess the impacts of cyber security awareness training
10. Keep employees vigilant to social engineering techniques
To learn more about social engineering and how you can keep your organization cyber secure, take advantage of these free cyber security awareness resources:
Contact us at 1-866-889-5806 or at [email protected] to learn more about social engineering.
Terranova Security is committed to delivering people-centric training that makes your organization cyber security aware.