Social engineering refers to a series of psychological maneuvers or tricks that an actor executes in order to induce victims to perform certain activities with the purpose of gaining some benefit. In other words, the perpetrator deliberately manipulates the target to gain a specific reward, such as to fraud the victim, gain access to restricted areas, access sensitive information, and more.
Social engineering attacks tend to be very effective because the authors carefully study their victims in order to play with their emotions and gain their trust. In a lot of cases, people fall for scams because they just don’t sense any danger behind the real intentions of the perpetrator.
Social engineering attacks have become more specialized and sophisticated over time, as a result, there are several different types of such attacks, depending on the means used. Here we define four of the most common ones:
Types of social engineering attacks
The most common type of social engineering attack is phishing. The target receives a spam email that is spoofing a legitimate corporation or organization that the target trusts. Then, the victim is lured to click on a malicious link that can install malware to its computer device or sent to a fraudulent website that will ask for their credentials.
These types of phishing emails are very common, mostly the ones depicting official sites like the Canada Revenue Agency in which people are asked to fill in sensitive information such as an address, phone number, credit card numbers, social insurance numbers, and more.
Like phishing attacks, call fraudsters often trick people by depicting official government offices like the CRA or well-known bank institutions like the RBC.
The perpetrators of these telephone-based attacks usually try to pressure people by letting them know that the purpose of the call is urgent. They say phrases such as: “We found 2 fraudulent charges on your Visa Credit card, and we need to verify your credentials to lessen the bail you will get for the charges.” This way they threaten you with fear to make you act quickly. The best way to leave scammers unarmed is by probing them with questions. Ask them the four last digits of the credit card number they claim to have the charges and you will see that they either hang up or evade the question.
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Baiting, like phishing, involves luring a user in with a tempting offer in exchange for login information or sensitive data. The “bait” can take many forms, including digital (a music or movie download on a peer-to-peer site) and physical (a business-branded flash drive labelled “Executive Salary Summary Q3” put on a desk for an end-user to uncover). Once the bait has been downloaded or used, malicious software is delivered directly to the end user’s PC, allowing the hacker to begin working.
Email bomb, what is it? This name may sound new to you. But the truth is, an email bomb attack, often referred to as a “subscription bomb” or an “email bomb,” is a prevalent social engineering tactic that targets a user’s inbox by inundating it with a massive number of emails from subscriptions and newsletters the user never signed up for. The primary objective of this attack is to conceal a more significant security breach by overwhelming the user with mass mailings, causing them to overlook the crucial email the attackers aim to hide.
Cybercriminals typically employ botnets or malicious scripts to register your specific email address on subscription websites that do not require Captcha responses or a two-step verification process involving your approval. As a result, you soon find yourself swamped with unwanted subscriptions, newsletters, and a torrent of email notifications.
Don’t fall for these traps
Because social engineering is such a serious danger to your company’s security, you should make preventing and mitigating these assaults a top priority in your cybersecurity plan. It requires a holistic security strategy, combining technological security measures with comprehensive training for personnel and executives to prevent a social engineering attack.
Consider cybersecurity training
Training should always be your first line of defence against a social engineering attack. Some of your staff may be aware of the usual tricks that scammers use and know how to act in those situations, but I guarantee you there are people who ignore this completely. Providing them with the appropriate training will save you a lot of money in terms of diminishing human error.
Take it slowly
Spammers want you to act quickly and then think about it afterward. If the communication uses high-pressure sales tactics or portrays a sense of urgency, be suspicious; never let their haste affect your careful analysis.
Investigate the facts
Any unsolicited messages should be treated with caution. Even if an email appears to be from a company you use, you must conduct your own investigation. To access the real company’s website, use a search engine, or look up their phone number in a phone directory.
Avoid any downloads
If you get an email from a vendor, institution, or any person that you don’t know of or didn’t solicit the mentioned email, don’t click on any links. These can lead to malicious websites or download malware to your device.
Consider using a password manager
With the use of password managers, you make sure that no one can access your credentials. Even if they have access to one of your accounts, they won’t have access to the rest because they are securely kept inside the password manager. This is safer than just saving your password inside the web browser and having the autofill option on.
Update your antivirus and antimalware software
Make sure automatic updates are turned on and perform periodic anti-virus checks.
Consider getting a cybersecurity audit
A cybersecurity audit is a crucial measure for safeguarding a company’s digital assets, as it exposes potential vulnerabilities and highlights areas that require improvement. Your business needs a cybersecurity audit to actively protect sensitive data, preserve customer trust, and avoid financial losses stemming from cyberattacks or data breaches.
Undergoing a cybersecurity audit allows businesses to better understand their existing security stance, identify weak spots, and take the necessary steps to reinforce their defences. This proactive approach helps organizations stay ahead of emerging threats and adhere to industry-specific regulations.
For small businesses, deciding if they need a cybersecurity audit can depend on factors such as the type of data they manage, their dependency on digital systems, and their risk tolerance. If a small business deals with sensitive information, operate within a regulated sector or has encountered any security issues, it’s highly advisable that they consider a cybersecurity audit. By doing so, they can ensure the protection of their digital resources and maintain a solid reputation in the marketplace.
In short, scammers will try their way into your private data and your money ultimately. But keeping them away is not as difficult as it may seem! Contact us to work on cybersecurity training that suits your corporate needs.