In the realm of cybersecurity, “social engineering” refers to a type of attack in which an attacker tricks a victim into divulging sensitive information or otherwise behaving in a way that makes it easier for the attacker to gain unauthorised access to systems or data. While social engineering can take many different forms, it generally relies on manipulation and deception rather than technical means.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at what social engineering is, how it works, and what you can do to protect yourself from these types of attacks.
How Social Engineering Works
Social engineering attacks generally follow a similar pattern: first, the attacker will gather information about their target (often through publicly available sources like social media), then they will use that information to craft a message that is designed to trick the target into taking an action that will either give the attacker access to sensitive information or help further their goals in some other way.
For example, an attacker might send an email that appears to be from a trusted source (like a boss or co-worker) asking the recipient to open an attachment or click on a link. If the recipient takes the bait and opens the attachment or clicks on the link, they may inadvertently install malware on their computer or give the attacker access to sensitive data.
Other common examples of social engineering attacks include phishing emails and texts, phone calls from someone pretending to be from IT support, and even physical infiltration of secure areas by posing as an employee or contractor.
Spotting Social Engineering Attacks
The best way to protect yourself from social engineering attacks is to be aware of them in the first place. Unfortunately, these attacks can be very difficult to spot; after all, if they were easy to identify, they wouldn’t be very effective. That said, there are some clues that can tip you off that something might not be quite right.
- You receive an unsolicited email or text message from someone you don’t know trying to get you to click on a link or open an attachment.
- You receive a call from someone claiming to be from IT support asking for your password or other sensitive information.
- You’re approached by someone in person who doesn’t seem to belong in the building and who is asking questions about company policies or procedures.
Even if you’re not sure whether or not something is suspicious, it’s always best err on the side of caution and report it to your IT department or supervisor just in case. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Protecting Yourself from Social Engineering Attacks
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourself (and your organisation) from social engineering attacks. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Never give out your password or other sensitive information over the phone, even if someone claims to be from IT support. If you’re unsure whether or not a call is legitimate, hang up and call the Help Desk directly using a number that you know is correct (don’t use any numbers provided by the caller).
- Be cautious of unsolicited emails and texts, even if they appear to come from someone you know. If something seems suspicious, don’t click on any links or attachments; instead, contact the person directly using another method (like picking up the phone) to verify that they actually sent the message before taking any further action.
- If you’re approached by someone in person who doesn’t seem to belong in your building, don’t hesitate to ask for their badge or other form of identification before letting them past security. If they act suspiciously or cannot produce proper identification, notify security immediately.
We hope this blog has helped give you a basic understanding of social engineering in cybersecurity, and how to defend yourself against it. Good luck and stay safe!