Social engineering attack is a type of cyber attack that uses psychological manipulation to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information or performing actions that benefit the attacker.
These attacks can be incredibly effective, and their consequences can range from stolen personal information to reputational damage, financial loss, and even physical harm.
In this blog, I’ll discuss the various types of social engineering attacks, the techniques used by attackers, and how to prevent them. I will also provide real-life examples of social engineering attacks.
Types of Social Engineering Attacks
Phishing attacks is a type of Social Engineering Attack, involve sending emails or messages that appear to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank or online retailer, to trick individuals into revealing their personal information, such as passwords or credit card numbers.
In 2018, a phishing attack targeted the cryptocurrency exchange, “Binance”. The attackers created a fake website that looked like “Binance” and sent emails to users, asking them to log in to their accounts. When users entered their login credentials, the attackers were able to access their accounts and steal their cryptocurrencies.
Baiting attacks, is a type of Social Engineering Attack involve enticing an individual to do something they would not usually do, such as downloading a file or opening a link, by offering an incentive, such as a free gift or a discount.
In 2011, a baiting attack targeted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The attackers left USB drives in the parking lot of the Chamber’s headquarters. When employees found the drives and plugged them into their computers, malware was installed that allowed the attackers to access the Chamber’s computer network.
Pretexting attacks involve creating a false scenario to convince an individual to reveal sensitive information, such as pretending to be an authority figure or an IT support specialist.
In 2018, a pretexting attack targeted the City of Atlanta. The attackers posed as employees of a vendor that provided IT services to the city and convinced city employees to reveal their login credentials. The attackers were able to install ransomware on the city’s computer network and demanded payment in exchange for restoring access to the encrypted data.
Spear phishing attacks are similar to phishing attacks, but they are targeted at specific individuals, making them more effective.
In 2016, a spear phishing attack targeted the Democratic National Committee. The attackers sent emails to DNC employees, asking them to reset their email passwords. When employees clicked on the link in the email, they were taken to a fake website that looked like the DNC’s email login page. The attackers were able to steal sensitive information and leaked it to the public.
Tailgating attacks involve following someone into a secure area without permission, taking advantage of the person’s willingness to be helpful or polite.
In 2019, a tailgating attack targeted a Silicon Valley tech company. The attacker pretended to be a delivery person and followed an employee into the company’s building. Once inside, the attacker was able to steal several laptops.
Techniques Used by Attackers
Attackers use a range of techniques to gain their victim’s trust and deceive them into doing something that is against their best interests. Some of these techniques include:
Attackers create a sense of urgency to convince individuals to act quickly, without thinking through the consequences.
Attackers pose as authority figures, such as law enforcement officers or IT support specialists, to gain their victim’s trust.
Attackers appeal to their victim’s emotions, such as fear or sympathy, to manipulate them into divulging sensitive information.
Attackers create a sense of scarcity or limited availability to convince individuals to take immediate action, such as making a purchase or providing sensitive information.
Attackers pose as individuals or organizations that the victim is familiar with, such as a colleague or a bank, to gain their trust.
Attackers use intimidation tactics, such as threatening legal action or physical harm, to coerce individuals into divulging sensitive information or performing actions.
Reverse Social Engineering
In reverse social engineering, the attacker positions themselves as a victim, seeking help or support from the target. Once the target has lowered their guard, the attacker can then gain access to sensitive information or perform malicious actions.
It is important to stay informed about the latest social engineering techniques or Social Engineering Attacks and to be cautious when interacting with unknown individuals or organizations, particularly online.
Always verify the identity of the sender and be wary of any requests that seem suspicious
or too good to be true.
Preventions to be followed
To prevent social engineering attacks, individuals and organizations should take the following steps:
Be cautious of emails and messages from unknown sources: Do not click on links or download attachments
in emails or messages from unknown sources. Verify the sender’s identity before taking any action.
Use multi-factor authentication: Multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security by
requiring individuals to provide additional information, such as a code sent to their phone, in addition to their login credentials.
Train employees: Organizations should provide regular training to their employees on how to recognize
social engineering attacks and how to respond to them.
Use strong passwords: Strong passwords are harder to guess, making it more difficult for attackers
to gain access to sensitive information.
Install security software: Install antivirus and anti-malware software on all devices to detect and prevent malicious attacks.
Be vigilant: Always be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the relevant authorities or IT department.
Social engineering attacks are becoming more prevalent, and the consequences can be severe. Attackers use a range of tactics and techniques to gain their victim’s trust and manipulate them into divulging sensitive information.
To prevent social engineering attacks, individuals and organizations must be vigilant and take the
necessary steps to protect themselves from these attacks.
By following the steps outlined in this blog, you can help protect yourself and your organization from social engineering attacks.