A Guide to Social Engineering Prevention

The internet has changed the game for businesses in the 21st century by lowering barriers to entry, increasing access to people and resources, and making it easier to reach customers with compelling offers. However, it has also introduced several threats and challenges to the landscape. Social engineering attacks are among them. If you want to stay protected, you need a plan.

What is Social Engineering?

Social engineering is the art of manipulation. It’s the term used to describe the methods hackers and bad actors use to convince people to give up sensitive and confidential information. This includes tricking people into giving up a password or account details that the hacker uses to steal data or perform other malicious activities.

Despite technological advances that allow for more complex attacks, social engineering is still a favorite tactic for hackers. That’s because it’s easier for them to exploit a person’s gullibility and/or natural inclination to trust other people than it is to launch a sophisticated attack on a device or software.

Social engineering attacks typically consist of four different phases:

  1. Research. The hacker starts by preparing the ground for the attack. This is where they identify the victim, gather background information (like name, company, and even the name and title of the employee’s immediate superior), and select the appropriate attack method.
  2. Hook. Just like a business uses a sales and marketing hook to get a customer to buy, hackers use their own malicious hooks to deceive and engage their targets into clicking something and/or giving over sensitive information.
  3. Execute. If the hook works and the hacker gets access, they execute the attack. This may involve stealing information, manipulating a company’s files/systems, and/or holding data hostage in a ransomware scenario.
  4. Exit. Most bad actors want to finish an attack without arousing any suspicion. To do this, they’ll remove all traces of malware, cover their tracks, and slip away into the “darkness.”

If you want to protect your company against social engineering attacks, your best approach is to train and equip your team to avoid the “hook.” This can be done through a combination of employee awareness training and technology to familiarize teams with common types of attacks.

Social Engineering Attacks to Watch Out For:

  • Baiting. As the name suggests, these attacks use some sort of false promise as bait to get the victim to reveal information or send sensitive data. For example, a hacker might leave a USB drive in an office that says “2022 Tax Files.” The victim then inserts the drive into their computer and unintentionally downloads malware.
  • Pretexting. You’ve probably had one of these scams attempted on you at one point or another. This is where the attacker attempts to obtain information through carefully crafted lies. For example, you might get a text from a number you don’t recognize. The text says something like: “Hey, this is [your manager’s name]. My phone died, so I’m using my wife’s phone. Can you please send me your password so that I can log in to the [account/system]?” (Or some similar variation.) Another popular attack involves the hacker asking you to send gift cards as a form of payment.
  • Phishing. These scams are probably the most common. They involve sending a malicious link to a victim and trying to get them to click it. Once clicked, the victim is sent to a malicious website and/or opens an attachment that contains malware.

These are just a few of the most common types of social engineering attacks. Hackers are constantly trying to stay one step ahead of businesses by forging new methods and hooks to prevent security professionals from figuring out their methods. Consequently, companies must maintain a proactive approach when it comes to preventing attacks. To learn how you can combine preemptive training and future-forward technologies, reach out to our technicians. By evaluating vulnerabilities within your systems, you’ll have a better chance of staying a step ahead of today’s bad actors and preventing social engineering attacks.

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