What is Social Engineering?

Blog / What is Social Engineering?

The recent art of manipulation dissuades people from their important information and increases concerns of businesses: Social Engineering. In addition to the methods that people are familiar with that hackers use, social engineering exploits human vulnerabilities. The technical vulnerabilities that hackers use for their attacks either exist or don't. Human vulnerabilities are very different, and no amount of technical security can protect against them. 

Cybercriminals who took advantage of Covid-19 and remote work topped the charts with a total of 5,258 data breaches in 2021. The fourth line found that social engineering initiatives increased by 37% in the second quarter of 2021 compared to the second quarter of 2020. In addition, the Fourth line revealed that social engineering accounts for 47% of financial fraud attempts in Europe. 

What is Social Engineering? 

Social engineering is when scammers use psychological manipulation to either corrupt data and harm the victim and demand a ransom or directly steal the victim's money and information. Social engineering feeds from common psychological aspects such as greed, shyness, kindness, and curiosity. Using these aspects of human psychology is officially exploiting human nature. Social engineering campaigns are sometimes run against thousands of people to hook only a few of them, while some campaigns are run in a much more personalized and comprehensive way. Scammers can carry out months of research on a single person. As a result, they get detailed information such as who they regularly interact with, their bosses, and working hours. The more the scammer controls the victim's personal information, the more credibility it will have; therefore, the more it will achieve its purpose.   

Social media risks of identity fraud due to cyberbullying, employment fraud, trolling, and data theft

Social Engineering Life Cycle 

The social engineering lifecycle begins with identifying the victim. Then, through e-mails and calls, information about the victim's identity is collected, and attack methods are selected. In the process of hooking, the target is engaged. A story is created and deceived through the web of interactions to capture the victim. During the play phase, the attacker performs the threat action and collects the victim's information. In addition, the victim clicks on the malicious link when it sends the software attacks and allows it to spread completely on its network. This interrupts their work. Lastly, in the exit step, after successful completion of the social engineer attack, it removes all malware, deletes its traces to avoid being caught, and the interaction is turned off. 

This cycle can start with a single fake phone call or months of calls. Leakage is not immediately detected; sometimes, attackers can use the critical information they have captured later or wait for the most vulnerable moment.  

Social Engineering Attack Techniques 

Even if there is any software to protect against malware, the user does not have knowledge and training about the attacks, and they may not be able to prevent social engineering attacks. 

Social Engineering has five attack techniques: Baiting, Phishing, Spear Phishing, Scareware, and Pretexting. 

  • In Baiting attacks, the curiosity of the victim is used. The scammer waves bait at the victim by sending urgent alerts, using tempting offers and promises. They imitate an organization's logo and text styles in messages to get victims to click on the malicious website they designed to obtain their sensitive information; they create the impression that the messages came from an official channel or friend. Feeding is usually carried out in common areas such as cafes and hotels, where free wifi is used effectively. 
  • Phishing is one of the oldest and most effective attack techniques. In this attack technique, gifts, discounts, or other tempting and intriguing fake messages are sent to the victims' e-mail accounts, and the information of the victim who clicks on the malicious links is compromised; in addition, the computer can be compromised by running infected files. These e-mails are prepared as if they came from a known website, the user's bank, or a company. The phishing technique aims to obtain a card, bank login information, passwords, account numbers, and social media account information.  
  • Spear Phishing is a targeted attack, as opposed to large-scale and random phishing. They target specific individuals or businesses and adapt to their targets' characteristics, environment, and business position to make the attack more believable. He may send an e-mail posing as a human resources specialist or an employee in the IT department, and the victim may disclose both personal and corporate information, mistaking the e-mail for real.  
  • The Scareware technique exposes victims to false alarms and imaginary threats. For example, on the website, even if your computer does not have a virus, you will come up with a pop-up such as "your computer may be infected with x virus." Not only that, but it also recommends its own antivirus software to get rid of this virus. 
  • Pretexting is when the scammer tries to dissuade the victim from sensitive information through psychological manipulation. The distinguishing feature of this assault technique is that it creates a story or excuse to manipulate the victim. Then Social engineers can use the resulting data in a further and larger attack.  

Lockdowns led to an increase in cybercrime, fraud, and money laundering, prompting governments to impose stricter penalties.

How to Protect from the Onslaught of Social Engineering? 

It is impossible to prevent attacks completely. There is always a possibility that the attacker will come up with a different and brighter plan that you cannot predict. However, creating awareness, obtaining security information, and having information about the techniques used will increase your security layer. Because social engineers carry out their attacks by manipulating human emotions, being aware can help protect you against attacks.  

The following tips can help increase your awareness of social engineering.  

Clicking on Links From Suspicious Sources  

If you don't know the sender of the e-mail, you don't need to reply to it. Cross-check even if you know the sender. Find the website yourself in the search engine instead of clicking the link. 

Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) 

The most crucial part for attackers is user credentials. Multi-factor authentication is a great way to reduce the hacking of your accounts. MFA boosts the security of your account by putting an extra security step in between at least two or more types of verification. 

Be Careful with Foreign Offers  

There can be many tempting offers, so think twice before accepting them. Research the topic and determine if it is a real offer. In addition, don't be fooled by offers of help from companies and organizations. Companies and organizations will not assist you if you have not explicitly requested aid. 

Keep Your Firewall and Antivirus Software Up to Date  

A cloud-based security program can prevent powerful attacks and alert you to potential threats. Keeping your antivirus software constantly up-to-date will also prevent social engineering. Make sure that automatic updates are turned on and that the updates are applied.  

Train Your Employees and Build Awareness  

The more you and your employees are aware of social engineering, the less likely it will happen to you. İnform your employees' by providing training to protect the company and themselves from social engineering and many other types of fraud. Create attack simulations. It's also crucial to create a workplace culture where they can talk comfortably about safety. 

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