Social engineering attacks, or the commonly used term social hacking, is a type of attack conducted by cybercriminals through data breaches and cyberattacks. The goal of cybercriminals is to destabilize the business by threatening market reputation and trust. For instance, Woolworths rejects the claim of a data breach when cybercriminals hacked their Everyday Rewards data. They were reiterating their claims to maintain their market reputation.
Cybercriminals get access to private data, digital and physical corporate resources, and infrastructure when they violate people’s trust and confidence. They can also persuade users (employees, clients, and customers) to download malware, transmit money, or take other risky acts.
Every year Australian business sector experiences thousands of data breaches. Moreover, small businesses are more vulnerable to social engineering attacks because they lack resources and expertise.
How do Social Engineering Attacks Affect Business?
The fundamental goal of social engineering assaults is to influence users’ behavior and emotions to persuade them to do something, like provide sensitive information (passwords, etc.), which they should not be doing. In general, these attacks prey on intense emotions, particularly fear, and utilize them to convince people to act quickly.
Organizations risk their staff falling for scams, being hacked, having a breach, and becoming the target of fraudulent actions (like electronic funds transfers, or granting access to unauthorised personnel) if they don’t educate and train them on social engineering techniques. These occurrences could be extremely costly and harm the company’s reputation. And if the evil guys find a “good victim,” they can do this repeatedly. In addition to the financial toll, your employees may experience mental distress due to being defrauded.
Stages of Social Engineering Attack
Attackers who use social engineering try to persuade someone to divulge sensitive information such as bank account information, credentials, or access. Here are four stages of social engineering attack:
Through the dark web, social media, phone calls, text messages, emails, and other channels, attackers gather data about their targets.
Attackers target victims by posing as dependable people or authorities and leverage the information they have learned about them to gain their trust. They may even use this information to access higher-value targets with increased “value,” like executives, system administrators, or IT helpdesk staff.
Attackers “persuade” victims to provide them with sensitive data, including login credentials for accounts, payment account information, and other details they can use to carry out a cyberattack. This persuasion frequently involves a subtle approach, such as a website, an attachment, a link, or even a social media quiz.
The criminal breaks off contact with the victim, commit an evil deed, and then vanishes.
Types of Social Engineering Threats
Here are some types of social engineering threats you should know before reducing the risks:
In a phishing attack, a cybercriminal sends a message to a victim via email, social media, instant messaging apps, or SMS to fool them into providing personal information or clicking a link to a malicious website.
By sparking curiosity, pleading for assistance, or invoking other emotional reactions, phishing messages draw the attention of their target and prompt them to take action. They frequently mimic an organization’s identity using logos, photos, or writing styles to make it appear that the message came from a work colleague, the victim’s bank, or another official channel. Most phishing communications employ a sense of urgency to make the target believe that bad things will happen if they don’t swiftly hand over sensitive information.
2. Whaling Attack
Whaling, or spear phishing, is a type of phishing attack that targets users with privileged access to systems or access to precious sensitive information. For instance, cybercriminals can launch a whaling attack against wealthy people, network administrators, or top executives.
The sophistication of a whaling attack exceeds that of a typical phishing attempt. Attackers carefully consider their targets to create a message that will elicit a response and the intended action from those targets. Whaling emails frequently pose as a crucial business email sent from a target’s employee, manager, or colleague and demand an immediate response from the victim.
Scareware is a malware technique that convinces users to acquire or buy virus-infected software and updates. Scareware attacks most frequently convince users to purchase or install software posing as a cybersecurity solution.
Scareware’s goal is to coerce users into buying phony software or further infecting their computers. Scareware displays pop-up security notifications to consumers that resemble alerts from legitimate antivirus providers. These messages suggest that files are infected, or the device is in danger. Various variations include RAM limit alerts, unused application clean-up services, and other hardware- or software-based upgrades.
If the strategy is successful, the victim may download phony software or visit a website where credentials or other personal information, such as password hashes, may be stolen. This may occasionally be useless bloatware, or it may occasionally be malicious software. Scareware has the potential to infiltrate the user’s device, infect other connected devices, and steal personal information, which could result in identity theft.
Attackers lure victims by offering something they think will be helpful. This could come from a purported software update that is a malicious file, a USB token that has been infected and is labeled as containing essential data, or other means.
A quid pro quo attack is similar to baiting, except instead of promising the victim something of value, the attackers promise to do something for their advantage in exchange for the victim doing an action. For instance, a hacker might claim to be calling back on a technical support request while dialing random corporate extensions. They pretend to assist someone who truly needs assistance but provide instructions on how to compromise their machine when they discover someone who needs support.
How to Prevent Social Engineering Attacks
Here are some tips to reduce the risks of social engineering attacks:
1. Monitor Online Business Presence
Social engineering occurs due to the internet’s capacity as a vast encyclopedia. For instance, you can learn about businesses and their employees using search engines like Google and Bing and social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
You must therefore exercise caution regarding your company’s online appearance. Information that might be regarded as confidential might be public knowledge.
You should also be aware of the assets that your business manages. Your company could be overly focused on some information kinds while ignoring crucial ones. You should ask two questions:
- How can I safeguard the information related to my business?
- How can I safeguard the data of the clients?
2. Use Multifactor Authentication
User credentials are among the most valuable pieces of data that attackers look for. If the system is compromised, using multifactor authentication helps ensure your account’s security. Login protection is a simple-to-implement 2FA solution to improve account security for your applications.
3. Educate Employees about Social Engineering
Attacks via social engineering focus on humans. It has to do with the “human factor.” In light of this, training your staff is one of the best strategies to safeguard your business against social engineering.
The folks working with you must be able to recognize various assaults. You can invest in crafting policies that include information on critical hazards or rely on security awareness solutions’ assistance.
It’s also crucial to specify who has access to what. The worse it is for the organization, the more people have access to information that has nothing to do with its function. This is a highly prevalent issue, particularly in small and medium-sized organizations.
4. Reduce System Vulnerability
Keeping your systems current is a suggestion that can be very helpful. For instance, a hacker may use social engineering techniques and fraudulent emails to launch a hoax. Then, in a subsequent move, he can utilize malware to take advantage of holes in your system, application, or program. Therefore, maintaining updated systems will aid in thwarting these threats.
When the issue becomes practically unfixable, having a backup is essential in addition to the updates.
5. Analyze Emails for Scams
Email is the critical threat vector, as we frequently remind our clients and business partners. Additionally, social engineering and harmful emails are closely intertwined. Therefore, businesses must use anti-spam, anti-malware, and anti-phishing solutions. The objective is to avoid risks, keep safe, reduce the chance of data breaches, and avoid pointless hassles.
Staff should be encouraged to discuss suspicious emails, phone calls, or in-person inquiries with their colleagues. Any unusual request needs to be treated with suspicion because it can be a social engineering ruse.
In these circumstances, the best course of action is to verify the request’s validity independently. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
6. Collaborate with CyberX
CyberX is a reliable cybersecurity company with an experienced team, experienced in reducing social engineering risks.
CyberX can help implement measures to improve an organisation’s security posture:
- all staff, irrespective of position or role, need to be regularly educated about social engineering and the risks that it poses
- staff should be made aware of the “red flags” to look out for
- there needs to be an awareness / culture among staff, to think before clicking on links in emails and opening attachments
- a “no-sharing of devices” rule should be implemented and reinforced with staff
- e-mail screening
- multi-factor authentication
- patch management
- lock-down of externally accessible services (such as RDP)
- use role-based authentication and apply least-privilege rules to those roles
- implement a backup recovery and business continuity plan
At the time of social engineering attacks, businesses can recover essential data and resume business tasks and activities. Moreover, by having a professional team to protect social engineering, businesses can assure that they can deal with a cyberattack.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as we have learned in this article, there are a range of measures that organisations can take to prevent social engineering attacks on your company. These preventative measures fall into two categories:
- training to promote an awareness of the risks and encourage appropriate “cyber-safe” behaviour
- implement infrastructure to reduce the risks of a successful attack: e-mail screening, multi-factor authentication, patch management etc.