In a world plagued with cybersecurity threats, businesses everywhere are constantly seeking the latest software to protect their data from being seized by cybercriminals.
And yet, with all of the savvy technology available to prevent such attacks, there is still one thing that we will never be able to install software against: humans being deceived.
Indeed, a business can invest in the best protective software out there, but if a human falls victim to a social engineering attack, your data can be captured regardless.
What is a Social Engineering Attack?
A social engineering attack is a form of cyberattack commonly performed on businesses in order to get hold of sensitive data pertaining to the business or its customers.
Usually, this data will be related to money, such as bank details.
The common denominator of all social engineering attacks is that humans are exploited to get this data rather than computers.
This manner of attack seeks to exploit human vulnerabilities or naive ties in order for the hacker to get what they want.
Below, we will explore some of the principal social engineering attacks that are widespread in today’s world.
It is crucial to be aware of these attacks to be resilient to them and adopt a cautious attitude toward anything that looks suspicious.
Though some of the terms below may seem like we’ve made them up — we assure you we haven’t.
Ever noticed that emails from your bank usually include a message cautioning you against emails that mimic them?
They do this because those fake emails are attempting to use phishing to perform a cyber assault on you.
In other words, phishing is a social engineering attack that usually involves an email where the sender is using the guise of a trusted entity or contact you know.
Phishing emails typically contain links that send you to a page where you might be asked to put in your login credentials or payment details, which will then be taken by the hacker.
Phishing is considered one of the most common social engineering attacks, and all forms of phishing can result in identity theft, financial loss, malware, and other cybercrime.
This type of attack gets victims to turn over their personal information under the pretence that something will be given to them in exchange.
Baiting can take the form of a pop-up offering free music, games, or movies if you click the link.
In actuality, you risk malware being dropped onto your computer and infecting it if you follow the link.
Piggybacking or tailgating is a social engineering attack that sees the hacker using ploys such as disguising themselves to gain access to a building housing the data they want.
For example, they may use the disguise of a delivery person or a cleaner.
Once they have gained access, which can be surprisingly — and alarmingly — quite easy in a bigger company, the hacker may insert some hardware into a company computer and infect the computer’s files or drop some malware onto the computer.
Once they have what they need, they can slip out of the building seamlessly and completely unnoticed.
We really aren’t inventing these terms — smishing is a variant of phishing; only this time, SMS or text messages are used in place of emails.
If you have somehow gotten this far in life without ever receiving a text from “Royal Mail” telling you your delivery (that you don’t remember ordering) requires some extra payment, consider yourself lucky.
This is an endemic cyberattack that circulates in the UK on a regular basis.
Another iteration of phishing, vishing involves voice calls with the same purpose of tricking you into giving away your personal data.
Businesses are often subject to this form of phishing — a scammer will phone a company’s front desk requesting personal information about a specific employee.
How to Prevent Such Attacks
Sadly, attacks of this nature will prevail as long as humans do.
It’s important to remember that if you or your business has fallen victim to a social engineering attack, it isn’t your fault; it truly can happen to anyone.
But how do we prevent these attacks from happening altogether? There are a few things we can bear in mind to mitigate the risk:
If Something Looks Fishy, It Probably is
If an email doesn’t sit right with you, check its legitimacy by checking the sender’s email address, looking for grammar and spelling errors, or contacting the sender in some other way before clicking on any links, entering any personal details, or replying with any information.
If it is an email alleging to be from your bank, contact them to see if they sent this email to you.
When You Receive Anything Requesting Personal Information, Slow Down and think
Many social engineering attacks happen because victims open an email or text, download a file, click on a link or answer a phone call that seems mildly believable and don’t think twice before playing into the hands of the hacker.
So: make sure you stop, think, and don’t act on impulse when you’re invited to do something on your computer.
Don’t Just Take People’s Word for it
Just because someone says they are a delivery person and need to come inside the building for some reason doesn’t mean you need to let them in.
Be careful who you allow access to the company’s building. You wouldn’t let just anyone into your home, so apply the same principle to your business.