Social engineering attacks are the latest form of malicious activity that enterprises and businesses of all sizes must understand and be prepared to protect themselves against. Social engineering attacks are not only becoming more common, but they are also constantly evolving in sophistication. Like all malicious activity targeting information technology, hackers breach systems to gain access to valuable company data, banks accounts, and business intelligence. Because of the ongoing improvement in the effectiveness of social engineering attacks, businesses must stay ahead of the curve and proactively do all that is possible to protect valuable information. Let’s further understand how social engineering attacks work and how to protect against social engineering attacks.
Common Social Engineering Attack Techniques
Social engineering attacks work by involving a type of psychological component that tricks the user into handing over sensitive or confidential information. There are many different techniques for a successful social engineering attack. By familiarizing yourself with the most common, you can learn what to watch out for as you go about your day to day activities.
Phishing: The most common social engineering attacks that consist of obtaining personal information (names, addresses, social security numbers, etc.), link shorteners or disguises that take someone to a site that appears to be legitimate, and incorporates either threats, fear or a sense of urgency.
Spoofing: when a hacker impersonates another individual within your organization through the use of an email technique called spoofing. The message will appear as though it came from a recognizable email address and only analyzing the headers (underlying email code) is it possible to determine the true origin. Spoofing, is used legitimately in many situations and as such is not automatically blocked by many email providers.
Baiting: Similar to phishing, except that they promise the user some sort of good in return for their information. Most commonly, baiting involves a free music or movie downloads, or free program downloads.
Quid Pro Quo: Is just like baiting except instead of a good, a service is promised in exchange for the user taking the desired actions that lead to sensitive information being vulnerable. Most commonly, quid pro quo is done by hackers pretending to offer IT services and fast fixes for computer issues and trick the users to disabling anti-virus programs and other protections already in place.
Pretexting: This is when attackers build up or fabricate a scenario with an unsuspecting user that comes off as good so that they lead the attacker straight to a system where sensitive information is easily accessible.
What’s important to remember in all of these scenarios is that the attackers build up trust and credibility with an unsuspecting user before they successfully breach a system by using personal and identifiable information relating to a user.
Protect Against Social Engineering Attacks
Social engineering attacks prey on the basics of human psychology and curiosity. To ensure you and your organization avoid these attacks at all costs, it is important to follow these guidelines and tips:
- Never open an email from an untrusted or unknown source. If you have any sort of doubt, err on the side of caution. If the email appears to be from a colleague, family member or friend, validate it with them on the phone or in person if you feel it looks suspicious. They might’ve been infected.
- Protect your devices with lock codes and passwords as much as possible.
- Buy and install antivirus software to protect against the majority of threats. While threats are constantly involving and it is impossible to protect against them all, having some sort of antivirus in place is better than having none.
- Educate yourself and your staff on identifying suspicious emails.
At NetManageIT, we believe strongly in educating and training our clients on using technology efficiently and safely. Contact NetManageIT today for more information about protecting against social engineering attacks.