The goal of most cyberattacks is to gain a victim’s personal information. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, such as with spyware and computer viruses. However, the most devious method cybercriminals use to obtain sensitive information is through social engineering.
How Social Engineering Works
Social engineering is the malicious act of using deception to trick people into divulging information. This information could be login credentials, bank account information, or social security numbers. This manipulative practice is so dangerous because it’s specifically designed to exploit human psychology in a way that causes the victim to do the work for the cybercriminal.
Common Social Engineering Techniques
- Baiting: As its name suggests, this form of social engineering uses bait to fool people into installing malware on their computer system. This type of attack can be done in the digital or physical world.
- Digital baiting: Preying on an individual’s greed or curiosity, the hacker will set a trap—such as an enticing ad—to lure victims into clicking on a malicious link or downloading an infected file.
- Physical baiting: In the real world, the perpetrator will set bait, such as an infected thumb drive, in an open area where everyone can see. The bait will be disguised as something that looks authentic. For example, the thumb drive could be labeled “company payroll list.” Whoever takes the bait and plugs it in their computer is now a victim.
- Scareware: The purpose of scareware is to scare a target into thinking that their system is infected with malware. This software will send false alerts to get a user to visit a harmful site or download a malicious tool. The most common example of this is popup banners that claim your computer is infected.
- Pretexting: In a pretexting attack, a cybercriminal will contact a target through a phone call or message and present a false motive to get the target to give up information. How pretexting works is the attacker will masquerade as a senior member of your company or as a known business contact to build trust with the target. The attacker may even use real knowledge about the target to make the ruse more convincing.
- Phishing: As mentioned previously, phishing emails are one of the most popular forms of social engineering. During a phishing attack, a victim will receive an email or text message that appears to be from a trusted source. The message will create a sense of urgency, curiosity, or fear in order to manipulate the victim to act. For example, the message may warn the user that they could lose access to something if they don’t click on a link or open an attachment.
- Spear phishing: Spear phishing is a subsection of phishing. Spear phishing uses a similar strategy to phishing but is more targeted. This attack will focus on a specific individual or group. Before performing this attack, a hacker will usually gather information on the target to make the message more convincing.
Why Social Engineering is So Dangerous
The one thing that makes social engineering so scary is that it’s specifically designed to prey on the natural helpfulness of people or exploit their perceived personality weaknesses. This is particularly troubling for businesses, as unwitting employees can undermine your security efforts. The strength of your company’s cybersecurity doesn’t mean much when it’s your employees who are compromising your network.
Social engineering is indeed one of the biggest cybersecurity threats facing us today, but there are steps your organization can take to prevent your employees from becoming victims. First and foremost, you’ll want to raise awareness among your employees by explaining what social engineering is and why it’s so dangerous. After raising awareness, provide training so your team can be prepared to defend themselves against attacks.
Here are a few other helpful tips:
- Keep your antivirus/malware programs updated
- Avoid opening suspicious emails and attachments
- Review and fine-tune your malware reporting system
Keep Your Network Protected with a Managed Service Provider
A social engineering attack or another form of cyberattack can be disastrous for a business. At Stability Networks, our technicians take a proactive approach to cybersecurity. We’ll monitor your network around the clock and take out security threats before they become a problem. If you’d like to learn more about our services, contact us today!