Social engineering attacks account for a large percentage of all cyber attacks, and studies show that they are getting more prevalent. Phishing is a common type of social engineering attack; in fact, social engineering is used in more than 98 % of cyber-attacks. It’s also a tried-and-true method of luring people to download ransomware. As the amount of information available to bad actors on the dark web grows. In 2020 alone, 22 billion more records were added.
What is Social Engineering?
The term “social engineering” refers to a wide range of malicious behaviours carried out through human relationships. It employs psychological tricks to persuade people to make security mistakes or disclose critical information.
Social engineering attacks are carried out through series of steps. An attacker first examines the intended victim to obtain relevant background information, such as potential avenues of entry and weak security mechanisms. The attacker then attempts to gain the victim’s trust to manipulate them into disclosing sensitive information or granting access to vital resources.
There are many techniques that attackers are use to manipulate their targets into sharing sensitive information. Here’s a list of some of the techniques they use.
Types of Social Engineering
1. Scareware: To drive their targets to act, Scareware scammers use language to create a sense of urgency. The easiest ways to trick their target is to use pop-ups that appear to be antivirus warnings. The messages may take over part (or all) of the target’s screen in some situations.
2. Phishing attacks: Phishing is a common type of social engineering attack that takes the shape of an email, chat, web ad, or website designed to imitate a legitimate system, person, or organisation. Phishing communications are designed to elicit a sense of urgency or anxiety, with the purpose of obtaining sensitive information from the recipient. A bank, the government, or a significant organisation might send you a phishing mail.
3. Baiting Attacks: Baiting, like phishing, entails luring a person in with a tempting offer in exchange for login information or sensitive data. The “bait” can take many forms, including digital (a music or movie download on a peer-to-peer site) and physical (a business branded flash drive labelled “Executive Salary Summary Q3” put on a desk for an end user to uncover). Once the bait has been downloaded or used, malicious software is delivered directly to the end user’s PC, allowing the hacker to begin working.
4. Quid Pro Quo: Quid pro quo like baiting, entails a hacker demanding the exchange of sensitive information or login credentials in exchange for a service. For example, a hacker posing as a technical expert may call an end user and offer free IT assistance or technology advancements in exchange for login credentials. Another common scenario is when a hacker poses as a researcher and requests access to the company’s network in exchange for $100 as part of an experiment. If an offer appears to be too good to be true, it is most likely quid pro quo.
5. Piggybacking Attacks: When an unauthorised person follows an authorised person into a restricted corporate area or system, this is known as piggybacking or tailgating. When a hacker calls out to an employee to hold a door open for them because they’ve forgotten their ID card, this is a tried-and-true method of piggybacking. Another way entails asking an employee to “borrow” his or her laptop for a few minutes, allowing the thief to rapidly install dangerous software.
6. Pretexting Attacks: Pretexting, also known as the human equivalent of phishing. This tactic is used when a hacker establishes a false sense of trust with an end user by impersonating a co-worker or a figure of authority in order to get access to login information. An email from what looks to be the head of IT support or a chat message from an investigator claiming to be undertaking a company audit are examples of this type of scam. Pretexting is quite effective since it weakens people’s defences against phishing by creating the idea that something is real and safe to interact with. As impersonators might appear genuine, pretexting emails are very effective in acquiring access to passwords and company data, therefore having a third-party backup source is essential.
Signs of Urgency:
1. The feeling of urgency: The message will try to persuade you that you must act immediately or else. This is frequently accomplished by inducing fear or excitement in you so that you would rush to give them what they desire. It might be an email that says something like “give us your details and we’ll send you a £1000 reward.” It could be a social engineering attack if a message heightens a feeling and makes you want to respond quickly. To avoid this, wait 90 seconds before responding to anything and then double-check the message to be sure it’s still legitimate.
2. The Questions: The questions asked can sometimes be a dead giveaway that someone is attempting to use social engineering to gain access to your information. This can be done by either increasing the number of questions asked or changing the sort of questions requested. As an example. If an unknown “salesperson” keeps inquiring about your data storage and security, they could be an attacker acting as a salesperson. Also, if the questions revolve around your password or “memorable replies,” it’s a sign that you’re being followed. A control to protect against this is always a question IF someone should be given the answer to the question they are asking.
3. No proof of who they are: A sign also aids in the enforcement of the others is a lack of reliable information about who they are. This means that if they tell you their name and business but you can’t uncover any proof of their “true” identity, it’s possible you’re being followed.
4. The contact details: If someone gives you information that can’t be reached or that doesn’t exist, it’s a clue that they’re attempting to social engineer you. For instance, suppose Jake calls from a “personal number” and refuses to use their department’s official number because the system is “down.” This might be an attacker masking their true objectives in order to appear legitimate, which means that if you contact the number, someone else will almost certainly be on the other end. To be sure, call them back using the official contact information that is published online (or within your business).
5. A personal message with wrong information: This is particularly noticeable in emails, but it’s also been seen in other kinds of communication including phone calls. An attacker will send you a message that appears to be addressed to you personally, but the information provided about you is inaccurate. As a result, you’ll get messages like “I’m a friend of a friend…” The attacker will use information about you to create a sense of connection with you, making you more likely to respond. To test this, ask the target for information about you that isn’t readily available online, or don’t answer if you don’t believe the message is genuine.
Tips to Prevent Social Engineering
After understanding the most common examples of social engineering, Here’s how you can protect yourself from being manipulated.
1. Don’t give up your private information: Would you ever reveal sensitive information to someone you don’t know? Obviously not. As a result, avoid excessively disclosing critical information on the internet. If you can’t figure out who sent the email, delete it. If you’re buying something online, however, only use an HTTP secure protocol to send your credit card information. Think twice before giving out your personal information to an unknown caller or emailer. The attackers want you to speak initially and then think about it later.
2. Enable spam filter: Spam filters are available from most email service providers. Any email that is considered questionable is automatically sent to the spam folder. Credible email systems detect any potentially hazardous links and files and advise users to download them at their own risk. Downloading of certain files with specified extensions is prohibited. You can avoid having to categorise emails by enabling the spam option. In addition, you will be freed from the dreadful duty of detecting suspicious texts. Social engineers will be unable to contact you, and your sensitive information will be protected from hackers.
3. Stay cautious of your password: One piece of advice for you is to never use the same password across all platforms. After you’ve finished surfing and browsing, leave no traces and delete all sessions. Use social media wisely, and be wary of who you tag and the information you offer, since an attacker could be lurking nearby. This is necessary in case your social media account gets hacked, and you use the same password for many websites, as your data could be compromised to the point of being exposed. You will be coerced into paying the ransom in order to keep your personal information from being leaked on the internet.
4. Keep software up to date: Always keep your system’s software patch up to date. Maintain your network firewall and keep an eye on the drivers. When an unknown user connects to your Wifi network, be on the lookout and update your antivirus accordingly. Only download content from reputable sources, and be aware of the risks.When your software is out of date, hacks are more likely to occur. When vulnerabilities are discovered, hackers take advantage of them to gain access to the system. Updating your software on a regular basis can protect you against a variety of threats. As a result, there are no backdoors for hackers to exploit.
5. Pay attention to what you do online: Consider the last time you clicked on an ad and got self-replicating files on your computer. You don’t want that to happen again, do you? You should get in the habit of not clicking on Clickbait and scam ads. Always keep in mind that the majority of online lotteries are fake. Never give your financial information there. Check the URL of any website you visit carefully. The majority of scammers make a duplicate of a website’s top page and slightly alter the link. The user visits the website and enters his credentials with such efficiency that the average eye cannot detect a change in the URL. As a result, stay alert.
6. Remain Skeptical: Most problems can be solved by remaining wary when using the internet. Do not open strange emails or click on spam links. Furthermore, do not believe messages claiming that you have won a lottery or that you have been awarded a million-dollar cheque.
A hacker will have no attraction of reaching you out since you aren’t paying attention to him. Most of the time, this strategy has helped a lot of individuals stay safe online and has never been digitally intercepted by hackers. As a result, you will be protected against social engineering because you will not be drawn to suspect material.
With social engineering playing such a large role in cyber-attacks, Security Awareness Training has become important to fight these attacks. You need to be aware of the many sorts of attacks as well as individual tactics, ensuring that they are well-versed in current social engineering strategies and how to spot them.