What is Social Engineering?
Having our devices hacked can be very inconvenient as they can give hackers access to all our confidential information. Even though we have our antivirus software installed on our computers, there are many risks and vulnerabilities we can come in contact with. Every business is under constant threat from a multitude of sources. From the biggest Fortune 500 companies down to the small local business, no company is 100% safe from an attack. The internet has become a space full of malicious links, Trojans, and viruses. Data breaches are becoming more frequent, and unsuspecting users are more vulnerable than ever before. When one click can cost thousands or even millions, all users need to be aware of the most critical cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities currently happening worldwide.
Have you ever heard of social engineering?
Social engineering is the art of manipulating people, so they give up confidential information. The types of information these hackers are looking for can vary, but when individuals or businesses are targeted, hackers usually try to trick them into providing passwords or banking information or even access to their computer to install malware. This will then give them control of your device or multiple devices. What makes social engineering dangerous is that it relies on human error rather than vulnerabilities in software and operating systems. Mistakes made by employees are much less predictable, making them harder to identify. Human error can happen in many different ways, including failing to install software security updates in time to having weak passwords, and giving up sensitive information to phishing emails. Since human error plays such an important role in cyber breaches, addressing it is key to reducing a business’s chance of being targeted by a hacker. We can take all the precautions and preventive measures to minimize the risk of cybercrime impacting ourselves or our businesses. But at the end of the day, all it takes is a simple human error to put everything in jeopardy. Whether it’s a link click, download, missed update, or misconfiguration, everyday mistakes can lead to more significant problems.
Social engineering is everywhere, online and offline. The best defence against these kinds of attacks is to educate yourself to be aware of the risks and stay alert. It has proven to be a very successful way for hackers to get inside an organization. Once the hacker has a trusted employee’s password or credentials, they can simply log in and retrieve sensitive personal or professional data. Here are some examples of social engineering attacks to look out for.
1. Phishing – Phishing attacks are one of the most common cyber crime methods, but despite how much we think we know about scam emails, people still frequently fall victim. Phishing emails are designed to look like legitimate messages from actual banks, businesses, and other organizations. But in reality, scammers create the message usually to steal your money, identity, or both. They want you to click links that will take you to a website that looks authentic but is just there to capture your credit card or other personal information or perhaps to distribute malware. An example is an email sent to users of an online service that alerts them of a policy violation requiring immediate action on their part, such as a required password change.
2. Baiting – These types of attacks lure users into a trap that steals their personal information or adds malware onto their systems. Usually, they use physical media to install the malware. For example – attackers will leave the “bait” in areas where potential victims will see them like bathrooms, elevators, or even parking lots of the targeted organization. The bait will have an authentic look to it and also similar branding to the organization. Victims will usually pick up the bait and insert it into a work or home computer, resulting in automatic malware installation on the system. Baiting can also be done virtually through online forms, which may consist of ads that lead to malicious sites.
3. Scareware – This type of attack involves victims being sent false immediate threats. Employees are usually deceived into thinking their system is infected with malware, prompting them to install software that is malicious. Scareware can also be called rogue scanner software or fraudware. An example of this type of attack is a legitimate looking popup banner appearing in your browser while on the internet. Messages could be similar to “your device may be infected with harmful spyware programs, act now”. Scareware uses social engineering to take advantage of a user’s fear, prompting them to install fake antivirus software. This type of attack has been known to convince users to download ransomware which is a form of malware that holds the user’s data hostage in exchange for a payout.
To protect yourself against social engineering attacks, it also requires a focus on changing human behaviour. When employees understand how easy it is to be tricked or scammed by a social engineering attack, they are more likely to be aware of suspicious emails, voicemails, texts, or other cyber attack approaches. Human error prevention training needs to include virtually every aspect of the job; from the first day on the job to the tasks that they’ll likely perform down the road, make sure they know the whys, the whats, and the hows. Also, remember that training isn’t just for new employees, training should be ongoing to all levels. Traditionally, companies have focused on the technical aspects of cybersecurity – but now it’s time to take a human approach to cyber security awareness.