What is a social engineering attack?

Social engineering attacks refer to a wide variety of tactics based on human error rather than vulnerabilities in systems. Hackers use social engineering to trick users into getting money, collecting sensitive information or installing malware on their computer systems.

In this article, we’ll look at critical types of social engineering attacks and how to prevent them. Let’s dive in:

Social Engineering Attacks – An Overview

Humans are the weakest link in cybersecurity. It often requires time, talent and high-tech resources to find and exploit a vulnerability in systems. But human hacking is a lot easier than that.

It’s no surprise that 95% of cybersecurity problems are due to human error. Hackers or threat actors take advantage of human behavior and natural tendencies to trick them into collecting sensitive information, monetizing or installing malicious software.

There are four predictable phases of most social engineering attacks:

Hackers collect necessary information about their targets. The more information hackers have, the better prepared they are to trick users. In the second phase, hackers try to build rapport and relationships with their target through various tactics. In the third stage, hackers or threat actors will infiltrate the target using information and report. phase is the closing phase – once hackers get money or sensitive data like login details or bank account details, they end the interaction in a way to avoid suspicion

Social engineering attacks cost companies a lot of money. Social engineer, Evaldas Rimasauskas, stole more than $100 million from Facebook and Google through social engineering. In another social engineering attack, the British energy company lost $243,000 to fraudsters.

As small businesses have more security awareness, hackers are more likely to use social engineering schemes to exploit human behavior.

In fact, according to ISACA’s State of Cybersecurity Report, social engineering is the main method of cyber-attacks.

Social Engineering Techniques To Watch Out For

Here are common social engineering tactics that threat actors use to trick users into getting money or disclosing sensitive information:

bait attacks

Baiting attacks take advantage of people’s greed, curiosity, and fear. In such an attack, hackers create a tempting bait for the target to grab it. If the victim goes for the bait, their computer system gets infected.

Threat actors conduct bait attacks through both physical media and digital forms.

In a physical batting attack, a hacker would leave physical media (such as an infected pen drive or CD) on company property for his employees to discover. The media would have names like the Employee Bonus Scheme or something like that. Once an employee plays this infected media on their system, it will infect the system. And through its internal network, it can also infect other systems.

Cyber ​​criminals can create a fake website with a malicious link to download a popular TV series or movie for free. When someone clicks on such a link, they can install malware on their system.

Quid pro Quo

Hackers abuse trust and manipulate human behavior in quid pro quo attacks. A hacker will reach random people and tell them that they offer a solution to a technical problem. If someone responds with the same technical problem, the hacker will tell you a few steps to solve the problem. And in those steps, the hacker can infect the system.

Phishing Attacks

A phishing attack is a fake email, text message or other form of communication that appears to be from legitimate companies. The message often contains a deal or offer that seems too good to be true to lure users in.

Hackers create a fake landing page that looks like a legit site. Then they send a message with a great offer to users.

When a user or targeted employee takes the suggested action or downloads the attachment, the hacker collects sensitive data or installs malicious code on the victim’s computer, affecting the system.

According to a CISCO report, 86% of companies reported that an employee tried to connect to a phishing website. The report also stated that phishing attacks were responsible for 90% of data breaches.

By educating your employees about recognizing phishing websites and installing an anti-phishing tool to filter phishing emails, phishing attacks can be effectively prevented.

Spear phishing attacks

Spear phishing is a phishing attack that targets a specific person, user or company. A spear-phishing attack often contains information that can pique a target’s interest.

Scareware Threats

Scareware takes advantage of human fear. In scareware attacks, users often see a pop-up asking them to take specific steps to stay safe. And following those steps results in buying fake software, installing malware or visiting malicious websites that automatically install malware on their devices.

Keeping your browser up to date and using a reputable antivirus program can help you fight scareware threats.

Pretext scam

When pretending to be a scam, threat actors create a pretext or scenario to trick people into personally identifiable information, credit card information, or other information that can be used for fraudulent acts such as a data breach or identity theft. Criminals often pose as authorities, insurance investigators, banks or institutions to commit pretext scams.

An effective way to prevent pretext scams is to verify requests for confidential information by contacting the source through alternative means.


In a tailgating attack, an unauthorized person without legitimate access follows an authorized person to a restricted area such as employee workstations, server room, etc.

For example, a threat actor with a big box in both hands reaches your company’s gateway. An employee opens the door with his access pass without realizing that his good heart has caused an unauthorized entry.

Enforcing a strict digital and physical authentication policy can help you fight the tailgate.

What is the most common way social engineers gain access?

Phishing is the most common way social engineers trick users into clicking malicious links or visiting malicious websites to distribute malware.

Social engineers often make phishing attempts via emails, social media sites, phone calls or text messages to exploit human error.

How can you protect yourself from social engineering?

Here are some proven tactics to prevent social engineering attacks:

1. Train your employees

Social engineering attacks take advantage of human behavior and natural tendencies. That’s why training your team members is an important step in building a positive security culture.

Be sure to train your employees to:

Avoid opening emails and attachments from unknown sourcesAvoid sharing personal or financial information over the phoneBe wary of tempting offersLearn about malicious software such as rogue scanner softwareAvoid sharing personally identifiable information on social networking sites

You can also hire a third-party security consultant to conduct cybersecurity workshops

2. Enforce multi-factor authentication

Cybersecurity in your company relies heavily on authentication methods your employees and suppliers use.

To strengthen security, you need to enforce multi-factor authentication. It is an effective way of granting access to legitimate users and keeping cyber criminals at bay.

3. Install antivirus software

Leading antivirus and anti-malware software can help prevent malware from coming through emails. Also, a good tool can warn your employees when they come across a malicious site.

4. Evaluate your preparedness

You should regularly test your defenses against social engineering attacks. Occasional drills and drills can help your team members better prepare for a social engineering attack.

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