As prevalent as cybersecurity threats unfortunately are today, many users tend to overlook major threats that they just aren’t focused on nearly as much: social engineering attacks. Social engineering attacks are just another means for a cybercriminal to reach their desired ends, and therefore needed to be protected against.
What is Social Engineering?
Social Engineering is the act of manipulating people into providing access credentials to criminals that aren’t supposed to have access to a system. To do this, the social engineer uses his/her influence (real or not) to trick people into supplying the needed information.
The act of social engineering can be approached in multiple ways. Hackers can take advantage of user carelessness, they can come in as a helpful party, they can take advantage of an individual’s fear, and they can exploit a person’s comfort zone. Let’s take a look at each.
Despite the need for information systems, companies largely depend on individual users to secure their own endpoints. Sure, they will put in place a set of tools designed to keep network resources secure, but overall, it is important for each user to maintain vigilance over their own workstation and other network-attached devices. If they aren’t, scammers can obtain access fairly easily.
If they can’t use spam or phishing messages to gain access, they may have to try an alternate method. For example, a scammer may gain access to your workspace. If your people ignore best practices for convenience and leave credentials or correspondence out in the open, a scammer looking for things like this will be able to leverage that mishap into access most of the time.
Most people will help people that are having trouble. The impulse to be helpful can be taken advantage of if the “victim” is a hacker. People can hold the door for a cyberthief giving them access to your office. They can use information syphoned from the web to gain a person’s trust and then use the trusting nature of good people for nefarious means. Moreover, it is natural to want to help someone, so you and your staff have to be careful that they are, in fact, in need of help and not looking to steal access to company resources.
Working Within the Comfort Zone
Most workers do what they are told. If they have somewhat repetitive tasks, they may grow complacent. Social engineering tactics will take advantage of this, especially at a large company. The scammer will get into your office and if some employees are used to random people just milling around, they won’t really pay any mind.
We typically like to think about hackers as loners that sit in the dark and slurp energy drinks while they surf the Dark Web. While this description is fun, it’s not realistic. Hackers, the ones that you should be worried about, know your company’s weakest points and will take advantage of them. If that weakest link is the complacency of your employees, that will be the way they will approach it. Unfortunately, this also technically includes insider threats.
Getting someone to do something out of fear is effective, but can be risky. The more fear someone has, the more they will look to others to help mitigate it. That’s why most fear tactics, nowadays, come in the form of phishing messages. Using email, instant messaging, SMS, or other means to get someone worried enough to react to a threat takes a believable story that could produce an impulsive reaction by a user. Fear has long been known to be a powerful motivator, so it really is no surprise that cybercriminals would resort to this means to coerce their targets into compliance.
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