Contrary to popular belief, not all forms of hacking involve looking at code or writing it. Social engineering is one of them and it is one of the most effective methods of manipulation.
Hackers rely on social engineering to get their hands on the information they have on businesses they’re not familiar with. For this reason, it’s necessary to educate yourself on the dangers of this cyber threat to avoid becoming a victim yourself.
Illustrating an example
An example would be a hacker creating a brand new Facebook account to masquerade as someone else. Before adding the intended victim as a friend, that person would first proceed to add everyone from their list of friends. Only then would they add the target and start a conversation with them. Such a profile would look more convincing – you have plenty of mutual friends. Having none would be a dead giveaway. After the show is over and they win the trust, a hacker could get away with sensitive data (or even money) they’ve convinced the victim to share.
Phishing is to be feared as well
Another buzzword that often gets mentioned in the world of cybersecurity is phishing. In essence, this social engineering method is all about leading the target to a fraudulent login form. That form has one purpose only – to harvest login credentials.
Phishing attacks usually involve some coding but the real reason why it works so well is that a human mind is susceptible to following a voice of authority. Nevertheless, cybercriminals know the right tricks and words to misrepresent one’s identity. They’ll use the kind of language a website administrator or one of your superiors would use. A claim about some urgency to complete the next step (e.g., fill the form) usually follows. The rest of it needs no explanation.
Compromised e-mail accounts take it up a notch
In a typical phishing scenario, the sender has a spoofed email address. A trained eye can spot it right away. But what happens if the entire address the e-mail gets sent from is legitimate? It can be compromised and under a hacker’s control.
Every so often, cybercriminals sell or release hacked email addresses on the dark web for cybercriminals to grab and do with as they please. Such an acquisition opens the doors to a sophisticated phishing attack and the target consists of everyone in the contact list of the compromised account.
Raising awareness is key
Only by raising awareness will people understand the dangers of social engineering and learn what is necessary to protect themselves against such foul practices. Therefore, all corporations should consider investing in training their employees. One unaware worker can be enough to bring the entire organization to its knees.
As fearsome as social engineering tactics can be, they rely on the victim’s emotions and lack of knowledge, and you can affect the latter. It’s time to realize that such an investment will pay off by making your business more secure and less prone to threats.
General tips to bear in mind
Phishing is the most common social engineering attack. A successful phishing attack relies on the victim clicking a link that leads to a fraudulent website and following the steps that lie ahead. Thus, as a general rule of thumb (and it’s a good one to remember), you should never click any links that you get via email, even if they look legitimate. It’s better to Google them instead. It’s also a good idea to protect your real IP address by connecting to the web through a VPN server. It won’t save you from phishing per se, but it’s one less thing a hacker has to work with, so it makes sense to protect it when possible.
Social engineering tactics have worked for ages and will continue to do so. Unless, of course, people start giving their online safety the attention it deserves. By reading this article, you’ve taken the first step in the right direction.