Social engineering is a tactic used by cyber criminals to gain access to sensitive information by tricking people into revealing it. It involves manipulating people’s trust, naivety, or fear to obtain valuable data such as login credentials, financial information, or personal details. Social engineering techniques can be used in a variety of contexts, including online and offline interactions.
Phishing is a type of social engineering attack that involves sending fake emails or messages that appear to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank or social media site. The message may contain a link to a fake website that looks like the real one, and the user is prompted to enter their login credentials or other personal information.
Pretexting involves creating a fictional scenario to trick someone into divulging sensitive information. For example, a cyber criminal may pose as a bank employee conducting a survey and ask for the customer’s account information.
Baiting involves offering something enticing, such as a free download or a prize, in exchange for personal information. The bait can be delivered through email or on social media.
Tailgating involves following someone into a restricted area without authorization by pretending to be someone else, such as an employee or a delivery person.
This is why many organizations that use a central door lock system (usually with door cards, RFID fobs, or another solution) will also have a rule in place (and often, accompanied by training) that states you must ensure nobody ever follows you through when you swipe.
Defending against social engineering
The success of social engineering attacks depends on the ability of the attacker to convince the victim that they are trustworthy and legitimate. To protect against social engineering attacks, individuals and businesses need to be vigilant and skeptical of any requests for personal information. Some tips for protecting against social engineering attacks include:
- Be cautious about sharing personal information: Only share personal information with trusted sources, and never provide sensitive data like passwords or financial information over the phone or email.
- Verify the identity of the requester: Ask for identification or confirmation from the requester before providing any information.
- Be wary of unsolicited messages: Treat any unsolicited messages with suspicion, especially if they contain links or requests for personal information.
- Educate employees on social engineering: Train employees on how to recognize and respond to social engineering attacks, and conduct regular security awareness training.
Social engineering attacks are a common tactic used by cyber criminals to gain access to valuable data. By being vigilant and skeptical of any requests for personal information, individuals and businesses can better protect themselves from social engineering attacks.