Social engineering attacks are a deception in which attackers use various tactics to manipulate individuals into divulging sensitive information or performing specific actions. These tactics include phishing, pretexting, baiting, quid pro quo, and tailgating.
Phishing is sending emails or messages that appear to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank or a government agency, to trick the recipient into providing sensitive information, such as passwords or credit card numbers.
Pretexting creates a false identity or scenario to obtain personal information from an individual. For example, an attacker might call a person pretending to be a representative from their bank and ask for their account number and other sensitive information.
Baiting is the practice of offering a person something of value, such as a gift or a prize, in exchange for personal information.
Quid pro quo attacks
Quid pro quo attacks involve attackers offering something in return for information or access. For example, attackers may offer to fix a computer problem in exchange for the user’s password. Tailgating, also known as “piggybacking,” is following an authorized person through a secure door or gate to gain unauthorized access to a restricted area.
These are just a few examples of tactics attackers can use in social engineering attacks. Be aware of these tactics and be cautious when providing personal information or performing actions in response to requests from unknown or untrusted sources.
Types of social engineering attacks
- Phishing: Attempts to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information through fraudulent emails or websites.
- Baiting: Offers a desirable item or service to entice individuals to reveal sensitive information.
- Scareware: Tricks individuals into believing their computer is infected with malware and then offers to sell them a solution.
- Pretexting: Uses a fabricated scenario to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information.
- Quid pro quo: Offers something in exchange for sensitive information.
- Diversion theft: Steals sensitive information by diverting mail or packages.
- Shoulder surfing: Observes individuals as they enter sensitive information, such as passwords, in public places.
- Vishing: Attempts to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information over the phone.
- Impersonation: Pretends to be someone else to gain access to sensitive information.
- Spear phishing: Targeted phishing attacks that use personal information to make the scam more convincing.
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Defend against social engineering attacks
There are several steps that individuals and organizations can take to protect against social engineering attacks:
- Be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls, emails, or messages. Legitimate organizations will not typically ask for personal information via these channels.
- Be cautious when clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown sources. These may contain malware or lead to phishing sites.
- Do not provide personal information to unsolicited callers or emailers. Legitimate organizations will not ask for sensitive information over the phone or via email.
- Use anti-virus and anti-malware software to protect your devices from malware and other malicious software.
- Use two-factor authentication whenever possible. Two-factor authentication requires a user to provide two forms of identification, such as a password and a fingerprint or a password and a code sent to a phone to access an account.
- Educate yourself and your employees about social engineering tactics and how to recognize them. Regularly run security awareness training for the employees.
- Keep software and security protocols up to date to protect against known vulnerabilities.
- Be aware of your physical surroundings and be cautious when following someone through a secure door or gate.
- Be aware of the information you post publicly on social media and other online platforms. Attackers can use this information to create more convincing pretexts.
By following these steps, individuals and organizations can significantly reduce their risk of falling victim to social engineering attacks.