~Amateurs hack systems, professionals hack people- Bruce Schneier~
What Is Social Engineering?
Social engineering is a type of attack that takes place due to human interaction and usually involves manipulating people into breaking normal security procedures and best practices to gain unauthorized access to systems, networks or physical locations or for financial gain.
To hide their real identities and motives, threat actors use social engineering techniques and they present themselves as trusted individuals or information sources. The reason behind this is to influence, manipulate or trick users so that they reveal sensitive data or access within an enterprise.
Attackers use social engineering tactics as it is usually easier to exploit your natural inclination to trust than it is to discover ways to hack your software. For instance, it is much easier to trick anyone into giving you their password than it is for you to try hacking their password.
How Common Is Social Engineering In Real Life?
Whole organization’s network as well as data can be at risk with social engineering attacks. Phishing is the most recognized form of social engineering where threat actors exploit individuals by sending infected emails with links or attachments that take you to malicious websites. As it is a very easy and convenient type of attack for threat actors, it is very common in real life.
Social Engineering: A Ticking Time Bomb with Mike Crandall | Podcast
What Are The Effects Of Social Engineering?
Regardless of size, any cyber attack can have a tragic impact on a business. Because of this, it is very important to ensure that your team is prepared to deal with these seemingly trustworthy messages. Some effects of an attack include:
Damage to business reputation: Cybersecurity attacks are also very dangerous as it steals the sensitive data related to both business and customer. When the organization incorporates data protection conformance very clearly in their process, customers feel safe to share their data.
Financial indications: It is obvious that attackers are after the money most of the time. This technique is usually used to trick employees into paying money into fake accounts on behalf of their company. This is especially effective where finance teams do not work closely with purchasing and are less likely to spot a seemingly accurate invoice for something that has never actually been ordered.
Halt to business productivity: To manipulate the person successfully into handing out confidential information, social engineering attacks rely on gaining a certain amount of trust over a period. It is very costly as well as time consuming including both the scam itself and resulting recovery operations.
Types of Social Engineering Attacks
- Baiting – An attacker leaves a malware-infected physical device
- Phishing – malicious party sends a fraudulent email disguised as a legitimate email
- Spear phishing – attack is tailored for a specific individual or organization.
- Vishing – This includes the use of social engineering over the phone
- Whaling – This attack targets high-profile employees, such as the CFO or CEO
- Pretexting – To gain the access to sensitive data, a party lies to another
- Scareware – Involves tricking the victim into thinking their computer is infected with malware
- And many more
Real Life Social Engineering Examples
Unfortunately, amongst various types of social engineering attacks, phishing, baiting and scareware are most common due to their realistic appearances online. We all think we will not fall victim to these attacks, right? In real life, social engineering attacks are extremely believable and so many people are easily tricked into sharing sensitive data or clicking that link.
Below are some examples of real-life stories that might help convince you to understand and think about these attacks seriously:
1. The 100-million-dollar Google and Facebook Phishing scam:
One of the biggest social engineering attacks of all time was run by a Lithuanian national who went up against both Facebook and Google. The team of this threat actors built up a fake company that posed as a computer manufacturer working with the two companies.
Next, emails were sent to employees, invoicing them for goods and services that another supplier had provided. The group then directed this cash to fraudulent accounts.
2. The White House Hack
The White House became a victim of the social engineering attack even though the intent was more mischief than malice. In the past also, many of the attackers have tried to access the networks within the White House but didn’t succeed. Unfortunately, on this occasion they were successful. Posing as Jared Kushner, a key member of former President Donald Trump’s team, the UK-based individual was able to secure the private email address of the administration’s cybersecurity chief. If the most powerful office in the world can be breached, it just goes to show that just about any organization is vulnerable.
How Can Organizations Protect Themselves From a Social Engineering Attack?
It is advisable to not rely on just one factor for your account security. We know that the password ensures security, but it is very easy for attackers to guess your password and gain access to your accounts. Multi-Factor verification (MFA) is a more advanced and suitable option to safeguard your organization from social engineering attacks.
Continuously Monitor Critical System
It is necessary that your system in which sensitive information is stored is being monitored 24×7. You are able to find vulnerabilities in your system by scanning both external and internal systems with Web application scanning.
Apart from this, to check whether your staff would fall victim to the threat of social engineering, you should have a social engineering engagement at least once a year.
Enable Spam Filter
You can close the doors for attackers of social engineering threats by enabling Spam filters. In protecting your inboxes from social engineering attacks, spam filters provide vital services.
Spam filters are easily offered by most of the email service providers. This spam filter holds the emails which are deemed as suspicious. With spam features, you can categorize emails effortlessly, and are freed from the horrible tasks of identifying mistrustful emails.
Pay Attention to Your Digital Footprint
You should stop oversharing of personal details online through social media as this gives attackers more information to work with. For example, if you keep your resume online, you should consider deleting your date of birth, phone number, and residential address. As this information is useful for threat actors who are planning a social engineering threat.
Having a pen-test to detect and to exploit threats in your enterprise is the most effective approach among the ways to prevent social engineering attacks. If your pen-tester succeeds in endangering your critical system, you can identify which system or employees you need to concentrate on protecting as well as the types of social engineering attacks you may be prone to.
Social engineering threats are very dangerous and growing day by day. Also, it now becomes one of the major cyber threats for businesses of all sizes. To prevent these attacks, you should equip your business with proper defense measures.
You should check that your company has the methods to rapidly detect security incidents, monitor what is going on, and alert your security team so they can take immediate action.
Do you want to start taking the right precautions to protect your business from unwanted attacks but don’t know how to do it? No worries! Sennovate experts are here to help you.
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Sennovate delivers Social Engineering Defence services, Managed Security Operations Center (SOC), custom Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions to businesses around the world. With global partners and a library of 2000+ integrations, 10M+ identities managed, we implement world-class cybersecurity solutions that save your company time and money. We offer a seamless experience with integration across all cloud applications, and a single price for product, implementation, and support. Have questions? The consultation is always free. Email [email protected] or call us at: +1 (925) 918-6618.