First off, what is Social Engineering?
Before we delve into preventing social engineering and subsequent attacks, let’s first begin by focusing on what precisely social engineering is.
Social engineering is a type of assault that exploits human behavior and emotions to access confidential data or systems. It is a non-technical attack that uses manipulation and deception to trick people into taking an action or revealing confidential information. Social engineering attacks are becoming more widespread since they are frequently more successful than technical attacks.
Social engineering scams are designed to exploit how individuals think and act. As a consequence, social engineering attacks may be employed to control the behavior of a person. If an attacker learns what motivates a user’s activities, they may easily deceive and influence the user. As internationally renowned security technologist Bruce Schneier accurately states:
“Amateurs hack systems, professionals hack people.”
In addition, hackers try to exploit a user’s lack of knowledge. Thanks to the speed of technology, many consumers and employees aren’t aware of specific threats. Users also may need to realize the total value of personal data, like their phone numbers. As a result, many users need help to best protect themselves and their information.
Preventing Social Engineering: What Are the Origins of Social Engineering?
Social engineering may be traced back to the late 1990s when phishing schemes first arose. Phishers would send emails that looked to be from a real business, generally a bank or other financial institution, to get sensitive information such as account numbers and passwords. Phishers’ strategies have gotten more complex over time, and social engineering assaults have become more widespread.
The 11 Most Common Types of Social Engineering Attacks
1. Phishing attacks
Phishing attacks – the oldest tactic used by social engineers – are the most common type of social engineering attack. They involve sending emails or text messages that appear to be from a legitimate company or organization in an attempt to trick the recipient into yielding confidential information or clicking on malicious links. Mike Danseglio, an award-winning author and security expert, succinctly sums up the problem in his quote:
“Phishing is a serious problem because there really is no patch for human stupidity.”
2. Spear phishing
Spear phishing is an email-based attack that specifically targets individuals or organizations. The email is meant to appear to be sent from a friend, colleague, or trusted business partner, which distinguishes spear phishing from ordinary phishing email campaigns. The goal being to trick the recipient into yielding confidential information or clicking on malicious links as with any form of a phishing email.
Whaling is a type of targeted attack that targets senior executives or other high-profile targets within an organization. A whaling exercise involves attackers crafting and sending emails to the whaling target that appears to be from an official or reputable source, such as a government agency or a well-known firm. The goal, as in all of these phishing exercises, is to obtain access to the target’s private information or financial resources.
4. Smishing and vishing
Smishing and vishing are both types of social engineering attacks that use text messages or phone calls to gain access to sensitive information. Smishing involves sending malicious text messages that contain links to malicious websites or links to malicious downloads. In contrast, vishing involves attackers calling victims and using social engineering tactics to convince them to reveal confidential information or provide access.
Baiting involves offering something of value, such as free software or discounts, in exchange for confidential information. This form of attack is typically used to lure victims into downloading malicious software or revealing their passwords.
Piggybacking or tailgating is a social engineering attack whereby the attacker gains access to a secured area by following someone who already has authorized access. The attacker may use deception or coercion to gain access, or they may pursue an authorized person without their knowledge.
Pretexting involves creating a false identity or story to gain access to confidential data. In a typical pretexting exercise, an assailant would pose to be a customer service representative or a bank employee with the goal of gaining access to the target’s sensitive information
8. Quid Pro Quo (i.e., tech support scams)
Quid pro quo is a form of social engineering attack in which the attacker promises something in return for access to confidential information.
Tech support scams, where the support tech (the scammer) promises to help the target with their computer problem in exchange for access to their credit card or bank account information, fall into the category of quid pro quo.
9. Honeytraps (romance scams)
Honeytraps, appropriately labeled, are another form of a social engineering attack in which the aggressor attempts to solidify an online relationship to gain access to sensitive information from the target.
This attack is often seen in romance scams, where the attacker will use the relationship to manipulate the victim into providing confidential information or financial assistance.
In many instances, the ‘honey trapper’ will attempt to solidify the relationship to gain access to the targets computer or network (very sneaky, indeed)!
Scareware makes this list in that it is a type of malware (malicious software) that the perpetrator uses to scare the target into performing specific actions, such as buying a product or service or clicking a malicious link.
Scareware typically displays false security alerts, or fake scan results that claim the user’s computer is infected with a virus or other malware. The user is then prompted to purchase a product or service to remove the infection.
11. Watering hole attacks
A ‘watering hole’ also makes this prominent list of social engineering encounters, in that it is a form of attack in which the attacker targets a specific group of users by infiltrating a website or online service that the group frequents. The attacker will then plant malicious code on the website or service in an attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in the users’ systems or steal confidential data.
Preventing Social Engineering – How to Identify Social Engineering Attacks
Because social engineering assaults are frequently camouflaged as legitimate requests, they can be challenging to detect and subsequently challenging in preventing social engineering encounters, period. Nonetheless, certain red flags may point to a social engineering attack:
An unexpected request for sensitive information is one of the most prevalent symptoms of a social engineering attack. Passwords, credit card numbers, and other susceptible information may be requested. Attackers may also try to obtain access to systems by requesting login credentials or other sensitive data. Any unexpected requests regardless of the nature of the request for information, should be avoided. And if it is from an unknown source, don’t even acknowledge the request.
Attackers may use complimentary items or services to entice victims into revealing sensitive information. An offer that appears too good to be true is another symptom of a social engineering attempt. In fact, any offers that look too good to be true totally ignore them.
Also, be on the sharp watch out for attackers trying to obtain access to your system by impersonating someone else. One example is pretending to be a customer care representative, a technical support professional, or even a family member. Any requests from someone pretending to be someone else should be treated cautiously, as this might be a symptom of a social engineering assault.
It is easy to recognize and take steps in preventing social engineering assaults by being aware of these warning flags. Remember that attackers’ strategies are continuously developing, so being updated on the newest security risks is critical. It is most probable to defend yourself and your organization from these deadly attacks by remaining watchful and aware of the indicators of a social engineering attempt.
Examples of Social Engineering Attack Story Lines
Clever cybercriminals know that social engineering works best when focusing on human emotion and risk. Taking advantage of human emotion is much easier than hacking a network or looking for security vulnerabilities. As Canadian author A. J. Darkholme expresses:
“The weakest link in any security chain is not the technology itself, but the person running it.”
The following are some familiar storylines of successful social engineering attacks hit again and again.
In this scenario, let’s say that you receive a message informing you that you are being investigated for tax fraud and that you must respond immediately to avoid arrest and criminal prosecution (that would hit a fearful chord). This social engineering attack occurs around tax season when people are stressed about paying their taxes. Cyber fraudsters capitalize on the tension and worry associated with tax preparation and utilize these dreadful feelings to deceive individuals into complying with the voicemail.
Consider transferring $10 to an investor and seeing it grow to $10,000 with no effort on your part. Cyber thieves exploit real human feelings such as trust and greed to persuade victims that they may genuinely receive something for free. A skillfully prepared enticing email informs victims that if they supply their bank account details, the monies will be sent the same day.
Cyber thieves pay attention to incidents that receive much media attention and then use human curiosity to fool social engineering victims into acting. For example, following the second Boeing MAX8 plane disaster, cyber thieves sent emails with files purporting to have leaked crash data. On the victim’s PC, the attachment installed a version of the Hworm RAT.
People desire to believe in and aid one another. After investigating an organization, cyber crooks send an email that appears to be from the targeted person’s boss to two or three employees. The email requests that they submit the password for the accounting database to the manager, emphasizing that the management requires it to guarantee that everyone is paid on time. The email tone is urgent, leading the recipients to believe they are assisting their management by acting immediately.
In this scenario which would appear to be fairly reasonable, you receive an email from customer service at a popular online shopping website informing you that they must validate your credit card details to secure your account. And unwittingly, you submit the information without hesitation, and the recipient uses your information to make thousands of dollars in fraudulent transactions. The email’s wording gave you a false sense of urgency to respond immediately to prevent crooks from stealing your credit card details – as it turns out, most regrettable indeed.
Now that we have covered how to identify social engineering as well as examples of social engineering story lines, lets now investigate the top ways in preventing social engineering attacks.
Top 10 Ways in Preventing Social Engineering Attacks
1. Always Think Before Clicking
‘Think before clicking’ is the number 1 recommendation on our list of strategies in preventing social engineering attacks. A malicious communication may appear authentic at first glance, but it might be a social engineering assault. It is critical to exercise caution before clicking on any questionable links or downloading any files.
As more aspects of people’s everyday lives shift online, the threats connected with cyber security grow. Many cybercriminals base their assaults on convincing individuals to behave rashly and without thinking, whether through phishing emails, malware attacks, or more complex social engineering attempts.
When you click on something you shouldn’t have, you open the door for fraudsters to infiltrate your computer. Clicking might result in them downloading malware on your device, using a keylogger to monitor your keystrokes, or accessing your passwords and accounts.
In many circumstances, individuals will instinctively click a link and then realize they have made a mistake.
“Think Before You Click” is intended to reduce this danger.
2. Confirm the Identity of the Email Sender
Before opening any email or clicking on any link, always confirm the sender’s identity.
Step number one in confirming the identity of the sender is to scrutinize the email address. It is advised to avoid reading the email or clicking on the link if the email address appears suspect, such as if it contains strange digits or letters.
If the email address passes the smell test of being legitimate, move on to step two in this process which is examining the email’s content. If the email has spelling or grammar errors, it is most certainly a fraud. And It only makes sense, if the email contains questionable demands, such as requesting personal information or money, delete the email and move on.
Most importantly, any link(s) contained in an email received from an unfamiliar source, double-check the URL before clicking on it. If the URL appears strange, such as by including random digits or letters, at all cost avoid clicking on it.
3. Make Use of Multi-Factor Authentication
Familiar with the term Multi-factor authentication?
Essentially, multi-factor authentication is a security measure to help keep your personal information safe from unauthorized access. Before a person can access a system or resource, users must provide two or more pieces of proof (or “factors”) to confirm their identity. This makes gaining access considerably more difficult for bad actors, as they would require access to several pieces of information.
Depending on the type of system or resource being secured, MFA may be implemented in various ways. The most common way for using MFA is to require users to provide a login and password and a one-time code given to their mobile device. Somebody may be able to use it to request a biometric element from users, such as a fingerprint or face recognition.
4. Make good use of Strong Passwords and a Password Manager.
It’s always best to choose a complex password to protect your devices from unauthorized access.
Think about it – it only makes sense that making use of a complex password is significantly more secure than a simple four-digit password. Most commonly, a complex password is made up of at least eight characters consisting of letters, numbers, and symbols. It would also make sense that your password not include any personally identifying information, such as your name, birth date, or address.
Configure specific passwords for different programs to provide additional security. The most effective method is to use a password manager.
What is a password manager? A password manager is software used to save and encrypt all of your passwords, allowing you to access all from a single secure location, eliminating the need to recall multiple passwords.
The downside is that organizations that save your credentials “in the cloud” are routinely hacked—a never-ending loop. Never, ever save any critical or sensitive passwords on the cloud. Saving on the cloud is about as risky as anything you could do on purpose or by chance.
I’ve included a password manager that is self-contained and local to your system. It protects the essential credentials on your local computer. It requires no opt-in or registration and is completely free. Nothing about it links to the internet in any way.
Here’s a link to our training center’s lesson video (no login necessary), and you may check it out to see whether it’s anything you need (I assure you, you do). If you wish to download it, check on the left side of that lesson page and select the “Description” link, which will take you to the direct download URL.
It’s here: RememberWhen (Password Manager)
5. Look for an SSL Certificate
SSL certificates have made it easier than ever to asceratain whether or not a connection is safe enough. So, how do you validate an SSL certificate on a website? To check an SSL certificate on any website, follow these two easy steps.
• First, see if the website’s URL begins with HTTPS, where the S signifies that it has an SSL certificate.
• Second, in the address bar, click the padlock icon to view the certificate’s details.
When you visit an insecure website, you may face a variety of hazards. Hackers may compromise your personal information or put harmful software on your device. Similarly, you may become a victim of a phishing attack, or others could monitor your activity or consume your resources in their favor.
6. Do Not Download Strange Files
We encourage our visitors to be cautious and take the necessary measures while downloading files. We recommend that our users avoid downloading unusual files from unknown sources. These files may contain malicious software capable of causing damage to data or network systems. These may include malicious programs that may be exploited to acquire system access. We also warn them not to open questionable email attachments or click on suspicious links.
7. Turn on the Spam Filter.
Spam filters aid in blocking emails containing harmful links, attachments, or information. We also caution our users to exercise restraint in clicking on email links, even if they appear to come from a reliable source.
8. Ignore Online Credential Requests
Responding to online demands for personal or financial information should be done with extreme caution. Even if the request appears to be from a credible source, we urge our readers to always confirm the request’s validity directly with the source; make sense?
9. Disregard Online Help Requests
Be suspicious of online support requests since these might be from criminal actors seeking access to their accounts or systems. We advise our readers to always refrain from submitting their passwords, account numbers, or other personal information in response to online support requests; hope that’s clear.
10. Be Wary of Making Online-Only Friends.
While making online-only connections, use caution. While it may appear secure to interact with someone online, remember that the individual may not be who they claim to be and may have harmful intentions. We urge our customers to never reveal personal or sensitive information with strangers they encounter online and to only contact individuals they know in person. Furthermore, we encourage our customers never to meet someone in person with whom they have only communicated online.
Preventing Social Engineering – Safe Network Use Habits
Never allow strangers to connect to your primary Wi-Fi network.
It is critical to maintaining safe network usage practices when utilizing the internet. One of the most crucial habits to develop is to keep outsiders from accessing your primary Wi-Fi network. Allowing outsiders to connect to your network might jeopardize your personal information since they could obtain access to your files, emails, and other sensitive data.
As previously suggested, use strong passwords for all of your accounts. Weak passwords are readily guessed or cracked, exposing your accounts to assault. To construct a strong password, use a combination of upper and lowercase elements, numbers, and symbols.
Furthermore, use a VPN
A VPN protects your internet activity by functioning as a shield. Using a VPN on all your internet-capable devices allows you to safely access the internet, whether at home or on the go.
Depending on where you are, Wi-Fi could well be offered at coffee shops, restaurants, clubs, and school campuses.
There is no way to tell what level of security these networks have.
A “man-in-the-middle” attack, which happens when an attacker intercepts data on an unsecured network, might be used to eavesdrop on your connection and steal your data.
These assaults are extremely dangerous for people who work from home. According to research, 80 percent of remote employees work primarily from home, with a coffee shop serving as a secondary location for 27 percent.
The fundamental function of a VPN is to encrypt your connection, allowing you to browse the internet even when utilizing public hotspots safely.
Preventing Social Engineering –The Security Software We Use
Preventing social engineering: social engineering is a form of assault that uses human behavior and emotions to access sensitive data or systems. It is a non-technical assault that employs deceit and manipulation to persuade individuals into taking action or disclosing sensitive data.
Data is the new money, and you can’t take risks with it. We don’t; thus, we rely entirely on Bitdefender Total Security to meet all of our online security needs.
In terms of online security solutions, this top-rated security service is as powerful as it gets in protecting consumers from a wide range of online security threats, such as viruses, malware, spyware, phishing attacks, and so on.
Another significant advantage is that we can use this award-winning security solution to protect all of our device types, including Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.
Here’s the deal: Bitdefender has had the most excellent detection rate in the business for the last five years.
Consequently, Bitdefender’s antivirus software is installed on hundreds of millions of devices worldwide. Bitdefender uses cutting-edge AI and other technologies to anticipate, recognize, and prevent even the most complex threats from inflicting harm.
How does Bitdefender compare to other cybersecurity products?
It’s pretty awesome since it gives excellent infection prevention.
Based on a scale of 0 to 6, with 6 being the highest level of protection, the following are the results:
Bitdefender – 5.94
Kaspersky – 5.92
Norton – 5.86
McAfee – 5.32
Overall Score based on the January 2011–June 2022. AV-TEST.
Consider evaluating the performance impact of various cybersecurity services.
Again, excellent for having the most negligible effect on performance.
The following are the implications on a scale of 0 to 6, with 6 having the most negligible impact:
Bitdefender – 5.83
Kaspersky – 5.82
Norton – 5.54
AVG – 5.42
Overall Score based on the January 2013–June 2022. AV-TEST.
Let me go over why we rely on Bitdefender Total Security to meet all of our online security needs.
It has little effect on your system.
Identify how to get the most out of your smart devices. Bitdefender consumes limited resources, but its optimization features can enhance your devices’ startup time and overall performance.
It is not influenced by any new or existing risks.
Spending more time online puts you at risk of various cyber-attacks. Bitdefender’s multi-layered protection protects your documents, photographs, and videos against all known and unknown threats like ransomware and viruses.
It protects against phishing.
Online frauds are on the rise, but their cutting-edge anti-phishing technology always keeps you secure. Bitdefender identifies and stops fraudulent websites from acquiring sensitive financial information such as passwords and credit card data.
It makes online banking entirely safe.
Protect your payment, whether buying anything online or performing your banking, with a fraud-prevention browser.
It makes web browsing speedy, anonymous, and secure.
With 200 MB/day/device of super-secure VPN traffic, Bitdefender VPN adds an extra layer of privacy, whether shopping online, connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, or simply surfing discreetly. Whatever your motive for using it, Bitdefender VPN safeguards your important data against spies and hackers, even in the most dangerous scenarios.
Finally, it offers modes for gaming, movie viewing, and working.
Bitdefender detects whether you are playing, working, or watching a movie to avoid interrupting you with unnecessary demands. Bitdefender temporarily suppresses pop-ups, modifies graphic settings, and pauses irrelevant background activities based on what you do with it to allow you to get the most out of it. Doing so helps you to focus on what is essential.
And keep in mind that we use it to safeguard all of our devices:
Windows Security: Windows’ security and performance are unparalleled.
MacOS Protection: customized security for your needs.
Android Protection is multi-award-winning Android security software for your tablet or smartphone.
With iOS Security, you can keep your data protected and your iPhone or iPad secure.
That’s all there is to it. Further information about Bitdefender’s Total Security and its features and benefits in preventing social engineering assaults is available here.
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