The world has seen an astonishing growth of cybercriminal activities in the past few years. To counter this threat, some cybersecurity solutions were developed. In addition to these programs, knowledge of how users get victimized was disseminated. This text seeks to explore some of the standard social engineering methods employed by hackers today.
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What’s Social Engineering?
In basic terms, social engineering is a manipulation method that takes advantage of human error to breach into a system. In most cases, scams are used to bait unsuspecting users into revealing their information, enabling access to secure networks, and spreading infections. The attacks can occur in-person, online, and, or through interactions.
When hackers develop scams in social engineering, they build them around people’s thoughts and actions. Furthermore, they exploit their ignorance. By the way, most people are not aware of the occasional changes in technology. They also don’t understand the essence of protecting their information, such as phone numbers, email addresses, etc. Thus, the breaching process becomes much easier for hackers.
What are the main goals of social engineering attackers?
- Sabotage – aims to corrupt, or disrupt a user’s data, hence causing inconveniences or harm.
- Theft – seeks to acquire a user’s critical information, such as banking information.
How Does Social Engineering Work?
The attacks rely on the communication that’s established between the victims and perpetrators. The attacker motivates the victim into compromising themselves, without using brute force. They follow an attacking cycle which has the following steps:
Preparation – done by collecting background information on the victim. The victim can be an individual or a larger group of users.
Infiltration – they create a relationship or initiate an interaction aimed at building trust.
Exploitation – as a result of the established trust, the victim will reveal their weaknesses, and the hackers will take advantage of this to plot an attack.
Disengagement – this is done after the victim has responded to the bait. By the way, this process can take longer because it will depend on the user’s reaction. The bait can be set up in emails, social media chats, or even directly.
Beware of social engineering attacks
Usually, hackers masquerade as professionals such as legitimate IT support personnel. When they make contact, they ask for your private information such as date of birth, address, and names. After that, they only need to reset your passwords to gain full access to your accounts. To learn more about the techniques they use, read below.
This is when they pretend to be a trusted individual or institution. They do this to persuade users to reveal their personal information and other valuables. Phishing attacks are made in 2 ways which are:
Spam phishing. Also called mass phishing, this is an attack that’s targeted on a large number of people. It won’t be aimed towards a specific person, but rather any unsuspecting victim.
Spear phishing. This is a more specific kind of attack. Under this, phishers will use personalized information to target selected users. These users can be high profiled individuals such as government officials, celebrities, or big companies’ upper management.
The modes of delivery used in phishing are:
Voice phishing/vishing: This is the use of automated messaging systems that records all your inputs. In some cases, they let you speak to a real person to boost your trust and increase the urgency.
SMS phishing/smishing: They can use texts or application messages. These can come with a web link that will encourage you to proceed with it and get into a trap.
Email phishing: It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. Here, they use an email and implore you to reply or follow-up through a web link, malware attachment, or phone number.
Angler phishing: This attack is usually executed on social media. The fraudster pretends to be a customer service personnel of a known company. They do this by hijacking and diverting the communications you’re having with the brand.
Search engine phishing: Hackers will try to put links that redirect you to fake websites on your search results.
URL phishing: This is a method where links that lure you to visit phishing websites are incorporated in emails, social media messages, texts, or online ads. The attackers will conceal the links in hyperlinks, buttons, or subtly spelled URLs.
In-session phishing: This is when users are interrupted by fake login pop-ups when surfing on the internet. The pop-ups are usually related to the page you’re visiting.
Baiting takes advantage of your curiosity to coax you into revealing private information. The popularly known baiting methods are:
- Use of USB drives that seem accidentally left in public places such as parking lots and libraries;
- Attachments on emails that provide details on an available free offer or fake free software;
Physical Breach Attacks
Physical Breach happens when the attackers show up in-person, pretending to be legitimate professionals to gain access to unauthorized information or areas. These attacks are common in environments such as government institutions, businesses, or organizations.
Ways to protect yourself against cyberattacks
In order to minimize attacks, watch your habits when using your computer. You should never click on random emails or text messages. And also, you should avoid following random links on the web. If you have to enter a URL, it’s better to type it manually. Otherwise, do not engage with unverified URLs.
A more effective way would be to install a cybersecurity solution. Most of them come with a significant phishing protection feature. This means you will become less vulnerable to social engineering attacks. In addition to anti-phishing, you can also get features such as a Virtual Private Network (VPN), password manager, and anti-malware protection.
In this day and age, it’s always important to be extra cautious concerning computer protection. You should drop bad habits and make sure your device only uses legitimate applications that are up-to-date. This also goes for your operating system. It’s imperative always to have the latest upgrade. Overall, computer devices need to stay protected with useful cybersecurity software.