10 Most Common Examples of Social Engineering Attacks

10 Most Common Examples of Social Engineering Attacks

Social engineering attacks represent a sophisticated spectrum of cyber manipulations aimed at tricking individuals into disclose confidential information. These strategies exploit human psychology rather than technological vulnerabilities, illustrating the human factor as the weakest link in cybersecurity defenses. The significance of understanding social engineering in the context of cybersecurity cannot be overstated.

It equips individuals and organizations with the necessary knowledge to anticipate, recognize, and defend against these insidious threats. Therefore, comprehending the dynamics of social engineering attacks is paramount for bolstering cybersecurity measures and fostering a culture of vigilant, informed users.

In this blog post we’ll share 10 social engineering attacks and how these scammers can attack on your personal information.

What is social engineering?

Social engineering is a broad term that encompasses various deceptive practices aimed at manipulating individuals into breaching security protocols. Through psychological manipulation, attackers influence individuals to commit security errors or disclose confidential data.

The process of a social engineering attack typically unfolds in stages. Initially, the attacker researches the target to identify vulnerabilities and gather pertinent information such as weak security measures or potential entry points.

Following this, the attacker seeks to establish trust with the victim, creating scenarios that prompt the victim to act against their security interests—actions which may include revealing critical information or providing access to secure systems.

What are Social Engineering Attacks

At the core of social engineering lies adept psychological manipulation, leveraging principles of trust, authority, and urgency to compel targets to act against their interests. For instance, an attacker might impersonate a trusted figure to request sensitive information or credentials, exploiting the inherent human inclination to assist or comply with authority figures. IBM underscore the nuanced understanding of human behavior that attackers exploit, emphasizing the role of cognitive biases in these schemes.

What are Social Engineering Attacks

Diverse methods serve the objectives of these schemes, each tailored to exploit particular psychological triggers. Concertium delineate various types, including phishing, pretexting, baiting, and quid pro quo attacks. In a phishing attack, for instance, cybercriminals might entice victims with a fabricated sense of urgency, compelling them to divulge personal information or click on a malicious website. Similarly, pretexting may involve concocting a convincing backstory or scenario to extract confidential data. Each type of social engineering attack aims to subtly exploit trust and manipulate perceptions, demonstrating the attackers’ deep understanding of human psychology.

Above all, the effectiveness of social engineering hinges on its ability to exploit the innate human propensity for trust. After that, attackers deploy various tactics to infect systems with malware, spoof identities, or gain unauthorized access. In addition, these strategies underscore the pivotal role of awareness and education in combating social engineering. Engaging in continuous learning and adopting a skeptical posture towards unsolicited requests can significantly mitigate the risks associated with these attacks.

10 Types of Social Engineering Attacks


Phishing attacks are deceptively straightforward yet alarmingly effective. They lure individuals into providing sensitive information like passwords and bank details. In these schemes, an attacker masquerades as a legitimate entity, often through email. The message might alarm you, claiming a problem with your account or an urgent need for information verification.

Phishing Attacks

Concertium highlight that sophistication in these scams is increasing. Links within these emails may direct you to malicious websites designed to harvest your details. Therefore, vigilance is essential. Recognizing such attempts can significantly reduce their success rate.


Vishing operates on a similar premise to phishing but leverages voice communication to deceive. The attacker might call you, posing as bank staff or company representatives, to extract personal data or financial credentials.

CISA emphasize the importance of skepticism when receiving unsolicited calls asking for sensitive details. Always verify the caller’s identity through independent means. Therefore, always trust but verify.


Smishing combines SMS texting with phishing’s deceitful nature. Attackers send texts that entice you to click on dubious links, leading to malicious software downloads or webpage data harvesting. As CISA outline, the personal nature of text messages often lowers individuals’ guards, making smishing particularly insidious. Therefore, scrutinizing every text message’s legitimacy, especially those prompting urgent action, is crucial.


Baiting scenarios promise the target a benefit in exchange for data or access. This type of social engineering attack could manifest through enticing downloads or USB drops, as described by Concertium. These baits often contain malware or routes to malicious websites. The allure of ‘something for nothing’ can cloud judgment, making education and awareness key defense strategies.


Pretexting involves fabricating a scenario to obtain desired information. The attacker builds a story to win the target’s trust, aiming to gather necessary data for further fraudulent activities. Concertium note the importance of questioning unexpected requests for information, even if the requester seems legitimate. Always confirm such inquiries through direct, trusted channels.

Business Email Compromise (BEC)

In BEC scams, an attacker infiltrates a company’s email system to impersonate executives, often to authorize fraudulent financial transactions. Concertium emphasizes the critical nature of verifying unusual financial requests, particularly those communicated solely via email. This exploit relies heavily on perceived authority and urgency, underscoring the need for robust verification processes within organizations.

Quid Pro Quo

Similar to baiting, quid pro quo involves offering a service or benefit in exchange for information. This attack could appear as tech support offering a free service in return for login credentials. Concertium advise skepticism toward unsolicited offers, particularly those requiring sensitive data exchange. Verification is key to prevention.


Tailgating or ‘piggybacking’ involves an attacker seeking physical access to restricted areas by following authorized personnel. Seemingly innocuous actions, like holding a door for someone, can have significant security implications. Awareness and training in physical security protocols are vital defenses.

Watering Hole Attacks

In watering hole attacks, cybercriminals compromise a well-visited site to exploit its visitors. Experts of this industry explains that attackers target specific user groups, infecting websites these groups are known to visit. Regularly updating antivirus software and being wary of unsolicited downloads or plugins can mitigate these risks.

Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is a targeted form of phishing where the attacker has done their homework. They know enough about you to craft a highly convincing lure. Experts underline the necessity of treating unexpected communications with skepticism, especially when they seem tailor-made for you. Double-checking the sources and being cautious with email attachments are prudent practices.

By understanding these various social engineering tactics, individuals and organizations can better arm themselves against the myriad ways attackers seek to exploit human nature for malicious ends. Awareness, skepticism, and ongoing education stand as our best defenses in the ever-evolving cybersecurity battleground.

Examples of Social Engineering Attacks

Notable incidents of social engineering shed light on the cunning tactics attackers employ. For instance, the infamous 2011 attack on RSA, a cybersecurity firm, involved a phishing email with an attached Excel file laced with malware. Once opened, the malware infiltrated RSA’s network, leading to a breach that compromised their SecurID authentication tokens. This incident showcases how even security-savvy individuals can fall victim to well-crafted phishing attempts.

Examples of Social Engineering Attacks

Another example is the 2013 Target breach, where hackers gained access to 40 million credit card numbers through a phishing email sent to a third-party vendor. This breach underlines the domino effect in cybersecurity, where one compromised element can lead to widespread organizational damage.

These cases illustrate not just the sophistication of social engineering tactics but also the critical need for comprehensive security measures at every organizational level. They underscore the principle that security is only as strong as its weakest link.

Prevention and Mitigation Strategies

Defending against social engineering requires a multifaceted approach. CISA emphasize the importance of security awareness training. Such training equips individuals with the knowledge to spot social engineering attempts, whether they come through email messages, text messages, or direct communication.

Organizations should also implement stringent security policies and protocols, such as multi-factor authentication and regular audits of security software efficacy. Physical security measures and vigilant security teams can thwart physical social engineering attempts, including tailgating or unauthorized access to sensitive areas.

Ultimately, fostering a culture of skepticism and verification can empower employees to question authenticity and verify requests independently, significantly reducing the risk of succumbing to social engineering tactics.

What People Also Ask

What is social engineering in cybersecurity?

It refers to the use of deception to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential or personal information that may be used for fraudulent purposes.

How can one identify a phishing email?

Look for unsolicited requests for sensitive information, mismatched email addresses, poor spelling and grammar, and unexpected attachments or links as key indicators.

What are the best defenses against social engineering?

Implement awareness training, establish robust security practices, use security software, and always verify the legitimacy of suspicious requests to prevent social engineering attacks.


In conclusion, the pervasive nature of social engineering underscores the critical need for robust cyber security measures. Attackers adept at employing social engineering techniques can manipulate individuals into revealing account information, social security numbers, and more, posing significant risks. To counteract these threats, individuals and organizations must be vigilant, educating themselves on the various forms of social engineering and the scammers’ tactics.

By understanding how attackers use social engineering techniques and fostering a culture of skepticism and verification, we can better protect ourselves from the insidious phishing scams that threaten our digital and real-world security. Emphasizing education, awareness, and proactive defense strategies is essential in safeguarding sensitive information against these deceptive schemes.