Social engineering refers to a set of manipulation techniques an attacker uses to gain access to sensitive information.
Now first, let’s see what is social engineering and the common methods of social engineering like Phishing Attacks, Business Email Compromise (BEC), Scareware, Baiting, Quid Pro Quo, etc.
How to stay safe against social engineering Social engineering is built around human psychology so the best way to avoid these attacks is to stay aware of your emotions and state of mind.
Here are a few tips to avoid social engineering attacks: Always check the origin of the message, Always check the URL, etc.
Social engineering refers to a set of manipulation techniques an attacker uses to gain access to sensitive information. Through the art of persuasion, the attacker assures the target that they are eligible to access any information or documents they are seeking.
Social engineering can happen through different digital means or even in person. They are built around psychology and human emotions and always try to evoke emotions such as excitement, anger, or fear which can lead the target to react instantly and fall victim to the attack.
Although social engineering comes in different methods, you can identify and avoid them by staying up-to-date and increasing your knowledge about them.
In this article, you will learn about social engineering, its common methods, and the best ways to stay safe against them.
Now first, let’s see what is social engineering and how it really works.
Social engineering refers to manipulation techniques that help an attacker to convince the target into doing something that would lead to the leakage of information or sabotage. This action can be anything from clicking on a malicious link in an email or revealing the security code of a credit card over an alleged phone call from the bank.
Social engineering is built around human psychology and tries to urge the target into the desired action by evoking extreme emotions such as fear and excitement that cloud rational judgment and decisions.
Social engineering can be a part of a more elaborate cybersecurity attack through which the perpetrator will gain access to some sensitive information or platform to perform their attack.
Let’s discuss social engineering further through an example.
You receive an email from your bank, alerting you of a suspected fraud on your credit card and asking you to click on a link to block your card immediately to avoid any loss. The email has the same template as the emails you regularly receive from your bank. Let’s say you have a similar experience as your card has been stolen before. You’re afraid to lose your funds again so you click on the link. But that link will actually install ransomware on your system that will lock all your data and files. The attacker is the only one with the key by which you can retrieve the information but they are asking for a huge lump of money for that key. And the sad part is, there’s no guarantee that they will actually give you the key if you pay.
In this example, the attacker targeted you specifically because of the experience you had. They believed you would act hastily by seeing the alert of card fraud and would take no time to check the full address of the sender and verify the authenticity of the email.
You, my friend, just fell victim to a social engineering attack.
Social engineering can happen in different ways. Let’s discuss some of them and see how they are usually performed.
The scenario that we explored above is an example of phishing attacks and is probably the most common method in social engineering.
In phishing attacks, the attacker tries to convince the victim that they are from a credible source or eligible to obtain the sensitive information they are asking for. Phishing attacks usually happen via email which contains a malicious link and a message that would urge the victim to click on the link without verifying the source.
Here, the malicious link can serve different purposes to help the perpetrator with their attack. It can direct you to a fake login page that looks exactly like the original one. The page will grab your credentials once entered and send them directly to the attacker. The attacker then can log into the original account and do as they wish.
Like the scenario above, the link can also lead to a malicious application that can disrupt your system, steal information, or delete your files.
As an employee, you may have experienced that email or text message from your manager or even the CEO of the company asking you to complete a personal task, buy vouchers, or even wire some money.
Rejecting a top-level manager isn’t easy and that’s exactly why the attacker is using this trick.
As the name suggests, the attacker is aiming to scare you into doing something hastily without putting so much thought into it. This can be something like a message from the police, stating that you’ve committed a felony and have to register your profile as soon as possible, including some personal information. This information can then be used for identity theft.
Another example is the security breach notices you may see online. It usually warns that some malicious applications have been found on your device and you need to do a quick update ASAP! You should know better now that the link that you see for the update leads nowhere good.
Well, this one is quite self-explanatory. The attacker offers something valuable for free as bait to lure you into doing something like sharing sensitive information.
USB baiting is quite often here where the attacker leaves USB drives in a targeted place. These USB drives contain malicious code and are intended for specific people like the employees of an organization. A free USB abandoned somewhere may tempt many to just plug it in to take a peek at its content and that is all needed for the malicious code to enter the organization’s system.
Remember that call that gives you the good news of becoming one of the lucky winners and all you have to do is share your credit card details, including its security code, to get the prize? That is a quid pro quo attack that aims to take advantage of our greed.
This is quite common in the cryptocurrency space as well. You can be the winner of 5 bitcoins if only you transfer 1 bitcoin first to a given address!
Social engineering is built around human psychology so the best way to avoid these attacks is to stay aware of your emotions and state of mind.
Here are a few tips to avoid social engineering attacks:
Always check the origin of the message: you can check the sender of the email and see if the email address matches the one it claims. If you receive a sudden request from a colleague or friend, always check with them through another method of communication to see if they are the ones actually requesting.
Think before action: this is probably a good rule for every aspect of life, but it can be quite useful when it comes to social engineering. Try to see beyond your emotions and avoid any hasty actions.
Always check the URL: once you are on a login page, always check the URL to ensure that it matches the actual website. You should also be aware of domain spoofing, a method used by attackers to create a domain quite similar to the original one by using special characters.
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is: and last but not least, don’t fall for any offer that seems too good. As the saying goes, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch in this world.