The Complete Guide to Social Engineering and How It Affects Your Security :
What exactly is Social Engineering?
Social engineering is a technique developed by hackers to exploit the human weakness. It is the act of manipulating people into performing desired actions or giving out confidential information. Anyone can be a social engineer, but it is much more prevalent among white-collar criminals who have gained access to company secrets. It is used for getting access to sensitive data.
The people that are often the victims of social engineering attacks are ones who work for a company, people with access to a network, and people with money. A person could be tricked into downloading malware from a spoofed email, leaking sensitive information through a phishing attack on their computer, or transferring money from their bank account without realizing it.
Most common methods of Social Engineering :
Social Engineering can be achieved by a lot of different methods, such as phishing, vishing, and spear phishing. Phishing involves sending an email or a text message to someone pretending to be from a reputable company and asking for personal information. Vishing is done over the phone by posing as an employee from the same institution and asking for sensitive data as well as bank details. Spear phishing is when you send emails that look identical to those that are sent from within your company but they contain malicious attachments or links which will infect your system with malware. To know more about what exactly is social engineering, Webroot has put together a detailed article. Click here to read the article.
How to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of a social engineering attack?
Prevention against social engineering attacks is difficult because it often requires a change in culture within the general public community. The key to success here is to teach them how to recognize the threat of these attacks before they happen.
Here are some of the most common practices that we all can do to prevent these types of attacks. Ignore and delete suspicious looking emails and avoid clicking on any of the links from emails that you do not feel to be genuine. Also avoid downloading any attachments especially PDF files or EXE files that come as an attachment with the suspicious emails. To verify the authenticity of emails, there are some very simple ways that I have explained in one of my previous articles titled “Identify spam emails and stop yourself from being scammed”. Click here to read that article.
The second step that you can do to prevent attacks is to enable and enforce two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) on all your online accounts which support this functionality. Different companies/websites implement 2FA in different methods. Some of them use text message based OTP verification whereas some others use email based OTP verification. There is another method which makes use of applications such as Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator. The online account that you want to secure can be linked to the Authenticator application by either scanning a QR code or by manually entering a code specified by the website into the application. Never sharing the OTPs with anyone is also a vital part of implementing 2FA authentication.
The third most important step is to enable antivirus on your device. A good paid antivirus subscription can protect you from most of the commonly found viruses/malwares that could infect your system when downloading files from the internet. Ensuring that the antivirus database is up-to-date is also important to prevent such attacks. To know more of how antivirus software works, you can refer my previous article title “How does an antivirus work?”. Click here to read it.
To summarize, the best and the most effective method to avoid these attacks is to make people aware of the various methods cyber criminals use, to get sensitive information about them or the organization they work in. Avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from suspicious emails and text messages, avoid opening spam emails, avoid clicking on pop-up boxes on websites and avoid giving out too much information on social media platforms, always use a paid antivirus subscription and keep the antivirus database up-to-date and enable 2FA or MFA on all online accounts that support it. By following these simple techniques you can avoid most of the social engineering attacks targeted towards you.
If you find this article useful, be sure to share it to everyone you know and make them aware of what exactly is social engineering and how to remain safe from these types of attacks. To know more in-depth of what an attack like this would look like, you can check my previous article on how to identify scam emails, by clicking here. To know how various countries are a part of a global surveillance alliance, check out the article titled ” Global surveillance through 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes and 14 Eyes – Explained” by clicking here. Also be sure to subscribe to the newsletter so you don’t miss out on the latest articles from Ciphernet.