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Social engineering is considered as one of the most dangerous cybersecurity threats as it can penetrate corporate networks through the weakest link of an organization—the human workforce. But no matter how sophisticated or well-designed this attack is, it could still be prevented with endpoint security solutions. Before you can fully protect your network against these, it’s important to know first the basics of social engineering attacks.
What is social engineering?
Social engineering is a kind of a cyberattack, which aims to trick or manipulate someone who is connected to a network, triggering them to surrender personal details, credentials, and other sensitive information that might cost them afterward. Before attackers can successfully launch their social engineering attack, they must go through these three sophisticated stages first:
ResearchEverything starts with in-depth research. The attacker will have to have a deeper understanding of its target and gather crucial information about how their network works, the organization structure, different roles in the organization, and what could be the most effective way to fool their target. This can be done by looking at and collecting their target’s personal data via their company website, social media profiles, and other details available online. They could even initiate an interaction to get to know their victim’s behavior.
PlanningNow that the attackers have gathered enough data to know how they can launch their social engineering attack, their next move is to curate their mode of attack carefully. They will identify the best design for their social engineering and will think of the best message that can unravel their target’s weakest point. The attackers will make sure that their attack will trigger emotion, enabling them to manipulate their victim into giving sensitive details.
ExecutionThe attack will then be launched through a personal message or an email, or via an online platform that their target usually visits. In some attacks of social engineering, the attacker would personally interact with their victim, while most attacks are usually done by simply clicking a link, going to a malicious website, or downloading a risky file. Meanwhile, attacks won’t go through as long as an organization’s network is protected or if they had trustworthy endpoint security solutions that would alert their IT security team about a malicious activity happening within their network. The team will then be able to protect their network, right before the attackers can collect sensitive and vital information about their organization.
Types of Social Engineering Attacks
PHISHINGThrough this social engineering attack, the digital attackers usually copy the branding of a legitimate organization, which they will use in contacting their victim. To obtain sensitive information from their victim, their message will contain a link that will go to a malicious website. And before the victims knew it, their personal details, such as bank details and more were already compromised. People must be aware of this attack, as it usually triggers fear, pushing victims to surrender their personal information quickly.
WATERING HOLEUsually performed by skilled and experienced attackers, watering holes requires perfect timing to preserve the value of the exploit they discovered. This attack involves launching or downloading malicious codes from a website that their victim commonly visits. Then, once the target visits the site, a backdoor trojan will then compromise and remotely control their victim’s website, allowing them to steal valuable details and files.
WHALING ATTACKAlso known as spear phishing, a whaling attack targets a specific person who has access to systems or highly sensitive information. More sophisticated than a regular phishing attack, this type of social engineering necessitates meticulous research to create content that will fool their target. Whaling attacks are usually disguised as a critical business email, sent by a colleague, business partner, boss, or employee. Moreover, the email/message will contain a message that has a sense of urgency.
PRETEXTINGWith this type of social engineering, an attacker uses a fake identity that can easily manipulate their victims into giving up their private information. Frequently, attackers pretend to be an external IT service provider or someone from their victim’s financial institution, as they are well-trusted by their target.
BAITING AND QUID PRO QUO ATTACKSMeanwhile, attackers pretend to provide victims with something they might think is valuable. To get this, attackers will ask their target to take some action and instruct them to provide personal details that will compromise their security, money, and other valuable details.