What is Social Engineering?
Social engineering has got a lot of attention recently. While the term is innocent, it denotes one of the most rampant crimes in the cyberworld. It is not new – the term was, ironically, popularised by a social engineer himself, Kevin Mitnick. He used the word to refer to his criminal activities in the 90s, like hacking and other computer-related crimes. So, what is social engineering, and how can you prevent yourself from it? Our cybersecurity team in Perth lays it down in this article.
What is Social Engineering?
Social engineering is a technique of manipulation that involves tricking a person into doing something to gain sensitive information or resources. This technique consists of exploiting the weaknesses of the human mind rather than technically breaking into a computer via hacking.
A social engineering attack can be in many forms – through telephone, email, social media etc., to get to a victim.
Most common methods of a Social Engineering attack
Here are a few ways how cybercriminals use phishing to get the victim to compromise their sensitive information.
- Click on malicious links: The criminal posing as your friend or trusted source can ask you to click on a specific link. These clicks may contain malware that can infect your computer system and give them access.
- Download a file: Attaching a media file or document that contains malware is another way in which phishing is used to steal data. Once downloaded, the malware enables access to the victim’s system and sensitive data.
- Ask for help: Relying on the good nature and generosity of a person to fall for the trap, this kind of phishing mail will ask the victim to send money to someone in dire need. Sensing the urgency and as well as the promise of returning it, people fall for this trick. Criminals also use this same technique posing as charitable organisations or political fundraisers.
- Verification links: The mail seems to come from an authentic-seeming service provider and requires you to click on a link for verification. It will also warn that service or data will be lost or, ironically, be hacked if you do not comply. The urgency and the authoritative voice make a lot of people fall into this trap.
- Lottery Winner: This kind of scam claims to be here to deliver a large amount of money that the victim has ‘won’ in a lottery or been bequeathed by a dead relative. Counting on the victim’s greed, they will ask the victim to provide bank details and other sensitive data to do the money transfer.
This kind of social engineering scheme is used rampantly throughout all social media platforms and websites. As the name suggests, it is bait with something flashy on offer, a large amount of money, free coupons, a new movie, or a great deal on a store. Clicking this can lead to malware attacks on your device, which eventually leads to identity theft and losing money.
- Offering help
The cybercriminal pretends to be a service provider responding to a query for help. The help offered will often be for free, making the victim more susceptible to accepting the offer.
These are some of the most common social engineering methods, but the attack can come in other ways too. As security software keeps upgrading, cybercriminals find newer ways of getting access to your system and data. Educating oneself and being on guard always is necessary to protect yourself from social engineering attacks.
Tips to prevent social engineering attacks
Our managed IT services in Perth give the following advice to dodge social engineering attacks –
- Create awareness of the security threats that are rampant in the workplace as well as new cyber threats.
- Avoid opening suspicious mail that calls for help, verification, or offers free stuff. Always cross-check no matter how authentic it looks.
- Do not fall for emails that threaten you to do something. Contact the authorities immediately.
- Enable multi-factor authentication to avoid losing your accounts in case someone gets your user ID and password.
- Do not fall for tempting offers. If an offer seems too good, it’s probably too good to be true.
- Invest in good antivirus and antimalware software to protect your system. Keep it updated consistently.
- Follow a good set of cybersecurity practices in the workplace to not be taken advantage of. Check out this article to get an in-depth understanding.
Multi-factor authentication – An authentication method in which a user is granted access to a device, app or website only after presenting two or more authentication factors.
Malware – A term for Malicious Software that is intended to cause harm to devices, networks and servers. Common types include viruses, ransomware, spyware etc.