Ways to Prevent Top Social Engineering Techniques

Bineesh Mathew | March 30, 2022 | 141 views

Ways to Prevent Top Social

‘Social engineering bypasses all technologies, including firewalls.”

- Kevin Mitnick, an author and computer security consultant from the United States

Social engineering is an attempt by attackers to trick or manipulate individuals into handing over access, passwords, financial or other sensitive information. It's a cyber-threat that exploits the weak link in the security chain to obtain access to company networks. Attackers use sophisticated deception and emotional manipulation to get workers, even top executives, to provide critical information.

  • Phishing is the most common type of social engineering technique.
  • 43% of IT experts report that they have been scammed in the last few years.
  • 93% of successful data breaches result from social engineering attacks.
  • 45% of workers click on suspicious emails thinking "just in case it's essential."
  • 71% of IT experts report seeing workers fall for a social engineering attack.
  • Social engineering assaults cost an average of $130,000 to any company.
  • 60% of IT workers think that new employees are likely to fall for social engineering scams.
  • 45% of workers fail to report suspicious emails and messages for fear of repercussions.
  • Cyberattacks that are socially engineered are less than 80% successful.
  • Business email compromise is the most expensive socially engineered attack - 64 times more expensive than ransomware!

“Companies spend millions of dollars on firewalls, encryption, and secure access devices, and its money wasted; none of these measures address the weakest link in the security chain.” 

– Kevin Mitnick, computer security consultant and author from the United States

Even though millions of dollars are spent on cutting-edge perimeters and end-point security systems, determined hackers can get into enterprise networks through human elements every day.


How Does Social Engineering Affect Businesses?


Successful social engineering has a catastrophic impact on a firm. When confidential information about customers, enterprises, finance, and personal details is compromised, your company's reputation and goodwill are at risk.

Successful cyberattacks affect businesses in different ways, such as:
  • Financial losses
  • Loss of productivity
  • The cost of recovering
  • Cyber-attacks cause business disruption
  • Social engineering hacks cause massive damage to your reputation

Learn about the top social engineering attacks and how to protect against them.


Top Social Engineering Techniques and How to Prevent Them

 

Phishing

In phishing, attackers send messages through social media, emails, SMS, or instant messaging to clients to trick users. This way, they make the user click on links that lead to malicious websites.


Phishing messages capture a victim's attention and prompt them to act by stimulating curiosity, requesting assistance, or eliciting other emotional responses. In addition, they often use logos, photos, or writing styles to make it look like the communication came from a colleague, the victim's bank, or other legitimate source.

Most phishing communications use a feeling of urgency to convince the victim that there would be severe repercussions if they did not immediately hand over critical information.


Prevention Tips for Phishing

  • Know what a phishing scam looks like
  • Don’t click on strange links
  • Get free anti-phishing add-ons
  • Never give your information to an unsecured site
  • Change passwords regularly
  • Install firewalls


Baiting

Baiting attacks usually involve luring the victim by generating curiosity or offering a hard-to-refuse deal. For example, social engineers may send an email with an attachment or a free download/sample link that promises lucrative deals. This would install malware on the recipients' systems when clicked.

Social engineers who access the location may also put USB devices on an employee's workstation to trigger curiosity. When the employee inserts the USB drive onto their computer to inspect its contents, malware is installed on their PCs. Social engineers may use the malware to control and access data once the malware gets installed on the computer.


Preventive Measures for Baiting

  • Companies should teach employees to recognize if an offer seems too good to be true.
  • Encourage employees to ask questions (if in doubt) before sharing any personal information.
  • Ensure all employees in the organization use antimalware and antivirus software on their systems.
  • Set up network security measures to stop incidents even before they happen


Pretexting


Although more focused, pretexting social engineering attacks are similar to phishing attempts. The social engineer constructs a fictional setting by impersonating an authoritative, well-known, or trustworthy person. The social engineer wants to gain confidence by pretending to be genuine and persuades the victim to share information.

Once the social engineer gets the information they want, they may execute further deception. For example, acting as if a customer needs urgent account information.


How to Prevent Pretexting

  • Teach employees the business rules and security best practices
  • Make sure employees always check with management before disclosing sensitive information
  • Have a clear-cut policy to handle suspected attacks
  • Avoid clicking on unknown links shared via emails or other sources


Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is a more advanced kind of social engineering in which communications are more targeted, well-written, and addressed to a single individual or group of people. Criminals personalize and modify emails for their intended recipients. The subject lines are unique and will include relevant themes for the receivers.

It's no surprise that spear-phishing emails are responsible for 91% of successful breaches. Unfortunately, email security filters and receivers may overlook the communication because they are well-tailored. In addition, the communication appears genuine and non-aggressive.

The spear-phishing email's developer makes an effort to obtain precise information on the target. Such information may be found in company directories or on websites like LinkedIn. After that, the hacker may gather more personal data from social networking sites to fine-tune a spear-phishing email.


How to Defend Spear Phishing

  • Train users to recognize, avoid, and report suspicious emails.
  • Security teams must develop, manage, and upgrade security technologies and practices to prevent, identify, and react to ever-evolving spear-phishing attacks.
  • Security teams must invest in continuously updating threat information to employees to stay ahead of attackers.


Vishing

In vishing, the hacker pretends to call from a bank, merchant account, or another service. The phone call starts with an automated message that directs the callers to the criminals acting as customer support representatives. To fake or disguise their phone numbers, criminals use smartphone applications or other technologies.

Vishing is a kind of social engineering attack in which the victim is deceived into disclosing personal, financial, or business information. The attacker may even act as an off-site executive from your organization.


Preventive Measures for Vishing

  • Verify unexpected phone requests using an official directory or call the company’s main office and ask to speak to the person making the request.
  • Login credentials should not be disclosed over the phone.
  • If a caller requests account or personal information, do not share it and inform the security.
  • You will not be contacted by security to change your logins, passwords, or network settings. Any caller who makes such a request is most likely a hacker. Decline the call and alert the authorities.


Summing Up

Cognitive biases and fundamental human decision-making play a significant role in social engineering strategy. As humans, we are bound to make mistakes. Building awareness will help you make the perfect decision at the right time. This will guard your business and loss of reputation.

Cybercriminals who use social engineering campaigns are aware of human psychology and use it to their benefit. Unfortunately, such cyber attacks may affect your company if a lot of data is compromised or there is a ransomware attack.

Recognizing typical social engineering tactics is the first step in strengthening your security measures and avoiding data leaks. Next, make sure your personnel are trained on how to deal with potential dangers so you can have the most effective defense possible.


Frequently Asked Questions


What are some of the examples of social engineering attacks?

Some of the examples of social engineering attacks are:
  • Quid Pro Quo
  • Tailgating
  • Smishing


What do you mean by social engineering attacks?

Social engineering attacks take advantage of human mistakes to get passwords or spread malware, usually through infected email attachments or malicious website links.


What are the six fundamental principles of social engineering?

The six fundamental principles of social engineering are commitment and consistency, reciprocity, social proof, authority, scarcity, and liking.

Spotlight

Innovative Solutions SA

Innovative Solutions (IS) is a specialized professional services company delivering topnotch Information Security and Products development for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region. We offer Products development including SMS gateway, OTP, and Security Awareness. Our Cyber Security Services includes ISO 27001 implementations, penetration testing, source code reviews, vulnerability and risk assessment & management. We specialize in providing information security solutions including SOC implementations, WAF, firewalls, IDS/IPS, and more.. Innovative Solutions is a winner of CITC Tahfeez program, SAGIA 100 Fast Growth companies and an ISO 27001 certified company, Winner of MRM Business Award 2014 in the services category, and won F5 best partner award.

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