Lately, and significantly since the pandemic last year, social engineering attacks have continuously risen. Attackers have been engineering ways to manipulate human beings and gain access to the targeted companies’ environment. Some of those social engineering techniques are too common. Alliant Cybersecurity, one of the top cybersecurity companies in the US, looks at six such engineering attack types with examples.
6 Types of Social Engineering Attacks Types and Examples
From emotional emails creating a sense of urgency, declaring you as a winner of a lottery (which you’ve never even thought of, let alone buy it!), to baiting, phishing, etc., you can encounter social engineering attacks in various forms. Some of the attackers are so well disguised that you may not even realize they are using or already used you to channelize the attack. Let us see how such attacks take place with examples.
Pretexting constitutes one of the most common types of social engineering attacks, wherein the attacker fetches information through a chain of lies, intelligently created and put forth. Often, these attackers present themselves as police officers, a higher authority from a company, etc., and ask questions required to confirm the user’s identity and fetch critical personal data. These scams involve gathering SSNs, phone numbers, addresses, vacation dates, etc.
Bad Actor: Hello! I am a new member of the [company] IT team. How are you doing today?
Employee: I am fine, thank you!
Bad Actor: We have noticed that your computer isn’t running as fast as it is supposed to. Have you been dealing with your computer running slowly at times?
Employee: Actually, it runs okay but if you are saying it can move faster, I would love to get it fixed? What do I have to do?
Bad Actor: I’ll be more than happy to help. Can you navigate to [www.badactorwebsite.com] for me? Alternatively, I can send you a link. Once you are there, fill in the fields with the appropriate information to establish the connection.
In the example above, the bad actor presented a relatable scenario to build rapport with the employee. Once that was done, the employee will be more willing to comply. While this poses a considerable security risk, it is easy to see how this can happen.
Baiting involves putting up something interesting in front of the victims and pulling them into the social engineering trap. For instance, attackers might put up a bait featuring a link to a free web series download, a promo code, etc., and in an attempt to uncover valuable account credentials and passwords. Another typical example of baiting is distributing free USBs at a particular event. These seemingly free USBs might be infected with remote access malware!
Have you ever received a message indicating that your computer might be infected with a harmful spyware program, and installing this tool will help you protect your computer from it?
If yes, someone might have attempted to access your system through scareware! What is scareware, though? Scareware operates by sending fictitious threats and false alarms to users to motivate them to take action. These alarms are generated frequently enough to deceive the users that their computer is genuinely affected.
Typically, the ask involves installing software that infects the system with harmful viruses. There are also backdoors that can get enabled that ultimately can allow attackers to enter the company’s critical systems.
Phishing is another common social engineering technique that involves an attacker sending fraudulent emails and claiming to belong to a reputable and trustworthy source. Consider a scenario where you receive an email from a company that you have worked with recently in the past that is asking for specific information. Phishing emails feature a request for information such as an SSN or date of birth for validation.
Usually, phishing targets a broad group of people at a time. However, at times, it might target a particular set of users, perhaps, the vulnerability of which is already known to the attacker.
Piggybacking and Tailgating
In tech-driven environments featuring user-based access and authorizations, barging into a facility isn’t as straightforward. Attackers know it, and hence they use piggybacking and tailgating as a way to gain access.
What does piggybacking mean? Piggybacking involves an authorized user, allowing another individual (mostly an unauthorized one) to piggyback off his credentials. Often, such strangers pose as poor chaps holding something heavy or new employees who haven’t got the access card yet or have forgotten it. The way they present themselves might make an authorized user think that he’s helping the individual but ends up getting fooled.
Yes. After all, it is social engineering and certainly has a lot to do with human emotions and feelings!
Another way to gain unauthorized physical access into a restricted environment is tailgating. Tailgating is pretty similar to piggybacking, with the only exception here is that the authorized user is oblivious to the entry of an unauthorized person behind him.
So, how is tailgating done? Tailgaters follow authorized people closely into the targeted area without letting them realize it. While being behind the authorized user, they might quickly seek entry into the targeted area before the door closes or put their foot or another object into the door before it closes and locks itself.
Smishing and Vishing
On the one hand, where phishing relates to fraudulent email practices, smishing and vishing are two other ways through which fraudsters try to enter a system.
Vishing is voice phishing. It involves an attacker calling a user and posing as an authority from a government agency and threatening or scaring the user into disclosing personal information or paying compensation. Smishing is SMS phishing, and it tends to prove disastrous for a company if the personal phone comprises the company’s email or on the official phone that its employees receive, such a message, and they fall prey to it.
Prepare your Organization for Cyber-Attacks with Alliant Cybersecurity
To counter the increased frequency of cyber-attacks and their ever-evolving nature, companies must hire professional cybersecurity companies. With its social engineering and cyber-attack prevention techniques, Alliant Cybersecurity offers professional help to prepare companies for cyber-attacks and prevent them.
Alliant sets up several tech-based protocols and authorized-based access systems and couples them with practical employee training. As a result, it enables companies to develop awareness and ingrain the right approach in their employees, which, in turn, lets employees remain mindful about social engineering and cyber-attacks otherwise.
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