Social Engineering Attacks: How to Protect Yourself
Cyber threats have become more advanced and dangerous as technology encroaches on all facets of our lives. Among these dangers, social engineering is one of the trickiest and riskiest strategies bad actors use. Instead of relying on intricate code or sophisticated hacking methods, social engineering exploits human nature and its inherent weaknesses to obtain unauthorized access to sensitive data.
This blog post will define social engineering, examine the different approaches to deploying social engineering attacks to cause harm to people and organizations and offer some tips for preventing these attacks.
What is Social Engineering?
Social engineering is psychologically manipulating others by preying on their trust, curiosity, fear, and other emotions to coerce them into disclosing sensitive information or taking security-risking activities. These assaults target the “human element,” the weakest component of any security system. Hackers skilled in social engineering are charmers who exploit people’s tendencies and cognitive biases by impersonating trustworthy people or using triggering situations to manipulate their targets.
Types of Social Engineering Attacks
There are many different types of social engineering attacks, but some of the most common include:
- Phishing: Phishing is the most common type of social engineering attack. It involves sending fraudulent emails, messages, or websites that mimic legitimate sources to trick users into revealing sensitive information like passwords, credit card details, or personal data. The messages often create a sense of urgency, leading recipients to act hastily without scrutinizing the authenticity of the request.
- Pretexting: Pretexting is a type of social engineering attack where the attacker creates a false scenario to trick the target into revealing confidential information. For example, the attacker might pose as a customer service representative from a bank and call the target, claiming that there is a problem with their account. The attacker then asks the target for their personal information, such as their Social Security number or credit card number.
- Baiting: Baiting is a type of social engineering attack where the attacker uses a lure to trick the target into clicking on a malicious link or opening an infected attachment. For example, the attacker might send an email with an attachment that appears to be a legitimate document, but is actually a virus. When the target opens the attachment, the virus is installed on their computer.
- Spear phishing: Spear phishing is a type of targeted social engineering attack where the attacker sends an email that is specifically tailored to the target. For example, the attacker might send an email that appears to be from the target’s boss, requesting that they provide their login credentials.
- Watering hole attacks: Watering hole attacks are a type of social engineering attack where the attacker targets a specific website or online forum. The attacker compromises the website and then injects malicious code into it. When the target visits the website, the malicious code is executed and the attacker is able to steal their personal information.
- Tailgating: Tailgating is a physical social engineering attack where the attacker follows an authorized person into a secure area. For example, the attacker might wait for someone to swipe their badge to enter a building, and then follow them in without swiping their own badge.
- Quizzes and surveys: Quizzes and surveys can be used as a way to gather personal information from unsuspecting victims. For example, the attacker might create a fake survey that appears to be from a legitimate organization. When the victim takes the survey, they are asked to provide personal information, such as their name, email address, or phone number.
How to Protect Yourself from Social Engineering Attacks
The best way to protect yourself from social engineering attacks is to be aware of the different types of attacks and how they work. You should also be skeptical of any emails, messages, or websites that seem suspicious. Here are some additional tips for protecting yourself from social engineering attacks:
- Do not click on links or open attachments in emails from unknown senders.
- Be wary of emails that ask for personal information, such as your passwords or credit card numbers.
- If you receive an email that seems suspicious, verify the sender’s identity by contacting them directly.
- Keep your software up to date, including your operating system, web browser, and email client.
- Use strong passwords and change them regularly.
- Be careful about what information you share on social media.
- Train your employees on how to identify and avoid social engineering attacks.
By following these tips, you can help protect yourself from social engineering attacks and keep your personal information safe.
Social engineering attacks are a serious threat, but they’re a threat that can be prevented. By being aware of the different types of attacks and how they work, and by taking steps to protect yourself, you can help keep your business and assets secure.
Need help protecting your organization from social engineering attacks? Contact one of our experts today.