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    What Is Social Engineering? Tips About Preventing It

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    What is social engineering?

    Social Engineering, aka Human Hacking, is a technique that an attacker uses for manipulating people to perform actions that are beneficial to the attackers. The attacker can exploit human behaviors that cause a victim to expose their confidential information such as username, passwords, and bank information. This allows the attacker to access the victim’s system. The attackers use social engineering because it is much simpler than using exploiting software. By taking advantage of human behaviors, the attacker can access the victim’s valuable information just like exploiting software.

    For Example, it is simpler to get someone’s Twitter login credentials by tricking the person than using an exploit in software or brute-forcing for obtaining account credentials.

    How social engineering works?

    Social engineering is all about manipulating people, particularly internet users. Social engineering may appear in various forms. It may be a single text message or a long-term communication. An attacker may spend time interacting with the victim on social media, sites, or in person. Sometimes, people do not realize that they can become social engineering victims by giving a few pieces of information. The attackers can put together that information to obtain more detail that may give the attackers an idea about a key to access the victim’s devices or personal account. In many cases, victims are not aware that they have been a part of social engineering attacks.

    Because the victims’ emotions like curiosity, anger, excitement, sadness play a vital role in Social engineering or Human attack. Influenced by emotions, the victims allow the attacker to manipulate

    For instance, a victim gets a text message, Congratulations! You’ve won an iPhone 12. claim it now! A malicious link may accompany the text.

    The victim may be aware that the text is a scam, but because of  the curiosity, the victim may also ask himself/herself, “ What if I won?” If the victim clicks on the malicious link, the malware embedded in the link will be automatically installed on the device. Even if the victim realizes it and tries to close the tab, It will be too late.

    But what if you ignore it?

    When you continue to ignore Spam text messages or emails, the attacker may not try again; however, the attacker may flood many scam messages to your phone number or email address. At last, the attacker will try to manipulate you again. He/she may send another message to provoke you to click the malicious link. For example, the attacker may send a text addressing that you’ve been getting too many scam messages, and you can get rid of the issue by clicking the link they provide. If you fall for it, your device will be affected. So, keep ignoring these types of messages.

    When you continue to ignore Spam text messages or emails, the attacker may not try again; however, the attacker may flood many scam messages to your phone number or email address. At last, the attacker will try to manipulate you again. He/she may send another message to provoke you to click the malicious link. For example, the attacker may send a text addressing that you’ve been getting too many scam messages, and you can get rid of the issue by clicking the link they provide. If you fall for it, your device will be affected. So, keep ignoring these types of messages.

    Sample Smishing Attack

    Types of social engineering attack

    Most types of cybersecurity attacks contain some social engineering. For example, an employee of a company may receive a manipulative email with a malicious link. If he/she clicks the link, ransomware or other malware will be installed in the system.

    Below are some common tricks that are used in social engineering attacks.

    Vishing Attack aka Voice Phishing Attack 
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    A vishing attack is carried out on a phone call. The attackers may claim that they are an employee of a financial institution or a company. They may express concern and try to get the victim’s essential data such as financial information, social security number, or any other useful credential for the attacker.

    Phishing attack 

    Phishing attacks involve using well-known organizations such as Apple, Amazon, eBay, or PayPal to get information from the victims. The attackers may send emails or text messages, claiming to be a legitimate organization and tricking the victim into clicking the link they provide.  For example, a victim may get an email saying that” Your Apple ID password has been changed. If it wasn’t you, reset it here.” If the victim clicks the link, he/she then will be redirected to a cloned site of the legitimate website. If the victim does not suspect that it could be a scam, he/she will enter login credentials. As a result, it will be saved on the attackers’ hosted server.

    Two main types of phishing attacks are personalized phishing and non-personalized phishing.

    Non-personalized phishing includes Spam phishing and Smishing attack.

    Spam phishing and Smishing attack are widespread. The attackers widely use the attack to target many users. However, while Spam phishing is a non-personalized attack, Smishing attacks can be personalized and non-personalized. A smishing attack is a method in which the attackers send fraud messages to the victims through SMS. Simultaneously, Spam phishing can be done through various approaches such as email, text, social media, and spam advertising from unknown websites.

    Personalized phishing is a personalized attack that targets a specific user. It includes Spear phishing, Wailing, Impersonation, and Baiting attacks.

    Spear phishing, in the broad sense, is personalized phishing that targets a certain group of people.

    Wailing is an approach that the attackers may claim to be a CEO or CFO of a company to manipulate the company’s victim.

    Impersonation is an attack in which an attacker claims to be an organization’s officer to get physically accessed to some building or system.

    Baiting attacks are extensively used by attackers. In this method, the attackers might drop malicious USB drives in public places. They may send messages or emails with a message, ”You’ve won a lottery” or “90% discount claim it before expires.”

    How to protect yourself from social engineering attacks?

    It’s not difficult to protect yourself from any cybersecurity attack. Follow the simple steps below may help protect yourself from social engineering attacks.

    • Email services often equipped with a spam filter. Setting the spam filter on high may help minimize spam emails
    • Inspect email and text messages. If it looks or sounds suspicious, then it is likely that the texts or emails are fraudulent
    • Try not to let emotions such as curiosity, panic, worry, or greed influence you to click the malicious link
    • Install a good antivirus to protect your devices from any harmful files
    • Double-check the address of the websites before entering any information such as login id, password, or any personal data
    • Above all, do not give out your phone number or email address to any website if it is not necessary
    • Don’t open emails from untrusted sources.
    • Know that the bank never asks for OTP via call or account credentials. So, if you get a call or an email, do not reply to them. If there is any issue, you may directly contact your financial institution 
    • Whenever possible, utilize two-factor authentication
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    Practicing these simple steps may protect you from any type of social engineering attack. Stay safe!

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