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How to Prevent Social Engineering Attacks

by | Jun 22, 2021 | BLOG

When it comes to cybersecurity, many think about protecting themselves against hackers who use technological flaws in a system to steal data. 

But cyberattacks can’t just be malware intrusions, there are other ways to infiltrate organizations and networks with the victim’s consent and without the victim’s knowledge of what is going on. 

This type of deception is known as social engineering, which in essence is manipulating someone until sensitive data and access permissions are granted. 

A well-known example of this is when an intruder poses as the IT support of a particular company, asking users to provide information such as their usernames and passwords. The scam is accomplished when this information is shared. 

It is surprising how many people do not think twice about sharing this information, especially if it looks like it is being requested by a legitimate representative. 

In this context, we bring you some information relevant to the precaution against these attacks! Keep reading and learn how to protect yourself from social engineering attacks.

 

What Would Social Engineering Be?


The definition of social engineering embraces many types of psychological manipulations. This concept can generate positive results when it is taken to the area of behavioral promotion. 

Information Security, however, tends to treat social engineering as an evil that provides benefits to the criminals, involving manipulation to obtain private information, such as personal and financial data. Thus, social engineering can also be defined as a cybercrime. 

 

How Does Social Engineering Work?

 

Unfortunately, for humans, there are still some relationship patterns that are established. Social engineering works by taking advantage of these cognitive prejudice situations where criminals steal financial and personal information. 

A strong example of this can be seen in the human tendency of trusting people who look nicer and more friendly, or even who hold a position of higher authority.

Social engineering techniques exploit this natural human confidence. In 2018, vacation rental phishing scams, in which hackers impersonated owners offering real vacation listings, were common enough that the US Federal Trade Commission issued a warning about them. 

In many cases, the contact information and emails of the real owners were hacked, leaving little reason for victims to think they were not discussing a rental with the real owner.

 

Who is Most Vulnerable to Social Engineering?


Anyone can fall victim to a social engineering attack. Each one has their cognitive prejudices that, most of the time, go unnoticed during social life. 

However, there are some particular groups that, in a way, are “easy” targets for these criminals, such as the elderly, who may not have knowledge of technology, generally have fewer human interactions, and may be perceived as having a lot of money and goods to discard. 


What Are Common Social Engineering Techniques?


Social engineering techniques can take many forms. Below we list the commonly used techniques.
 

Trust Exploitation

Users are less suspicious of people they are familiar with. An attacker can become familiar with system users before the social engineering attack. The opportunist can participate in social events and other environments, which makes the attacker familiar to users.

Intimidating Circumstances 

We tend to avoid people who intimidate others around us. Using this technique, an attacker could pretend to have a heated discussion on the phone or with an accomplice to the scam, and could then ask users for information that would be used to compromise the security of their system. 

Users are more likely to give the correct answers just to avoid a confrontation with the criminal. This technique can also be used to avoid being checked at a security checkpoint.

 

Phishing

This technique uses tricks and cheats to obtain users’ private data. The social engineer might try to impersonate a genuine website, such as Google, and then ask the unsuspecting user to confirm their account name and password. 

This technique can also be used to obtain credit card information or any other valuable personal data.

Exploring Human Curiosity

Using this technique, the social engineer can deliberately leave a virus-infected USB stick in an area where users can easily pick it up. The user will likely connect the USB stick to the computer. 

Thus, the USB stick might run the virus automatically or the user might be tempted to open a file with a name, such as Employee Review Report 2013.docx, which might actually be an infected file.

 

Exploring Human Greed

Using this technique, the social engineer can entice the user with the promise of earning big money online by filling out a form and confirming their details using credit card details, etc.

 

How to Protect Yourself from a Social Engineering Attack?

 

Social engineering attacks are stealthy. This makes it critical for everyone to be aware of the threat. Some best practices you can follow to ensure you are protecting yourself from social engineering attacks include:

  • Never responding to a request for financial information or passwords. Legitimate organizations will not send a message asking for personal information.
  • Adjusting your spam filters. Every email program has spam filters, make sure yours is set to block potential threats.
  • Protect your computing devices and accessories. That means protecting your digital space with antivirus software, firewalls, and email filters. It also means protecting USB sticks, external hard drives, and other pieces of equipment that could be compromised.

Finally, managers must develop plans to raise awareness among the staff. There are many essential precautions available on the internet, and for corporate environments, the in-house team needs to be aware of how to protect against digital threats. 

Making sure employees are aligned for this purpose is an essential step in the process of preventing social engineering attacks and other cyberattacks.

Did you like everything covered here? So, add to your reading and learn what the most common cyberattacks are in businesses and how to prevent them right now!

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