Updated: Sep 12
Humans interact socially with each other.
But a few of those interactions will do more harm than good.
No, we're not scaring you into not talking to others.
But it's important to know how it could go terribly wrong.
We'll walk you through -
👉 What are social engineering attacks?
👉 What are the types of social engineering attacks?
👉 What are the dangers of such attacks?
👉 How to avoid being a victim?
It may cost you and your organization everything.
So, without further ado, let’s begin to understand what this is.
What are social engineering attacks?
The word "social" implies that it involves humans.
And that's exactly what it is.
Social engineering is a cyberattack that relies on human interaction.
It works by tricking the victims into giving personal information.
Or performing acts that will compromise their online security.
The perpetrators exploit human emotions.
What is the success rate of these attacks?
The statistics will blow your mind.
Human error was the main cause of a whopping 95% of cybersecurity breaches.
You can read more about it in the 2023 IBM Security annual report HERE.
It's much more successful than any technical attack.
And the reason why it's a major concern for every organization.
So, how does it work?
The answer is, that it depends on the type of attack.
Oh yes, it doesn't stop at one, there are multiple ways to deceive people.
What are the types of social engineering attacks?
There are a myriad of different attacks.
But we'll highlight the most common ones here.
91% of social engineering attacks are through phishing emails. (SOURCE)
Hackers pretend to be a legitimate source, such as a bank or service.
They send generic emails to people hoping they'll click on a malicious link or attachment.
Spear Phishing, on the other hand, is more personalized
It targets individuals or employees and pretends to be a trusted source.
The hacker leaves a malicious file or USB drive in a public place.
Their hope is that someone picks it up and opens it.
Which will infect their device and they can perform their nefarious actions.
3. Quid pro quo
The hacker offers the victim favours in exchange for sensitive information.
It's usually a financial favor such as a free gift or discount.
The hacker creates a fake scenario to gain the victim's trust.
And further, convince them to reveal sensitive information.
This is especially scary in the age of AI voice impersonation.
A panic call from a relative might not really be them, as highlighted HERE.
The hacker physically follows an authorized person into a secure area.
They could do this with or without their knowledge
However, it's mostly done by befriending them.
Either way, they don't have authorization to be in there.
Now that we know what we're dealing with.
Let's dive further into how dangerous these are...
What are the dangers of such attacks?
Now, you have a clear idea of how personal these attacks can get.
And what kind of ways they can reach us.
But, what are the consequences for individuals?
Identity theft is one of the most infamous acts.
Personal information can be stolen, which may include:
- Bank & card details.
- Social Security Number.
This identity theft can lead to devastating financial fraud and emotional impact
A detailed post on how to report identity theft is linked HERE.
Apart from personal threats, organizations are at a higher risk.
Social engineering attacks can be used to gain unsolicited access.
And sensitive customer or company information is at risk.
Example of a real incident?
Let's go back to 2019 and talk about Colonial Pipeline in the USA.
The hackers tailgated a legitimate employee into the company's IT network.
Once inside, they stole 100 gigabytes of data and installed malware.
They demanded and received a ransomware payment of 75 Bitcoins ($5 million!)
The entire pipeline was shut down for the first time in its 57-year history.
It disrupted half of the fuel supply to the East Coast of the USA.
The average cost of a data breach in 2023 is USD 4.45 million. (SOURCE)
So, you can see that its effects are devastating.
The damages will be fixed eventually.
But the reputational damage will always lure over them.
Ideally, we should avoid attacks from happening, so let's learn how.
How to avoid being a victim?
The precautions are simple to follow, but not easy.
Because the perpetrators are notorious and would go to any extent.
However, equip your mind with these points and you'll be safe -
1) Don't Share Personal Information
Our personal information is more easily accessible than ever.
Especially since the advent of social media.
Be careful about what you share online.
Avoid openly sharing personally identifiable information.
And NEVER share your social security or credit card numbers.
As it will lead to another set of problems like fraud and identity theft.
Basically, don't trust anyone easily.
You don't know the true intentions, and it will be too late when you find out.
2) Don't click on unknown links or attachments
Emails are responsible for most cybersecurity attacks.
And most of us use it on a daily basis.
So the next time you receive an email, check the source.
And NEVER click on links or download attachments from unknown senders.
It's most likely malware that will infect your device or steal your data.
Always double-check the credentials.
3) Be Suspicious
If something sounds too good to be true, it is.
Unsolicited emails and phone calls may convince you otherwise
So, always verify the source through alternate means.
If it's an organization, contact their official communications to verify.
Also, never give unrestricted access to your device or any physical location.
Unless the friend or colleague has official clearance for the same.
There is a reason the individuals have restricted access levels.
4) Follow Cybersecurity Best Practices
We'll give you a quick refresher on a few guidelines -
👉 Use unique and strong passwords for every website.
👉 Update the latest software on your devices.
👉 Update your passwords regularly.
👉 Use password managers.
👉 Use antivirus.
These are small steps that go a long way to keep you secure.
You can further read more guidelines HERE.
5) Be Vigilant and Train Your Employees
Vigilance employees are the best asset to any organization.
And employers need to focus on training employees.
Having adequate training programs will avoid silly errors such as employees leaving sensitive information exposed.
It can be reduced when they know the consequences of their actions.
So, be aware of your surroundings, physically and virtually.
Organizations and individuals can drastically reduce the risk of cyberattacks.
Remember, you're always one mistake that can cost millions in damages.
Don't be the weak link in the cybersecurity network.
"Awareness and vigilance paired with common sense can prevent most cyberattacks."
Social engineering attacks are bound to skyrocket in the future.
As technology involves and cybersecurity measures improve.
Hackers are going to rely on human errors to exploit individuals.
It's critical for everyone to be aware of these methods.
To safeguard themselves from being a victim of a social engineering mishap.
Stay SPECtacular and keep following lessons from the world of cybersecurity.