What Is Social Engineering? A Simple Definition and Prevention Tips
Updated: Apr 28
Social engineering is slowly becoming one of the biggest threats to businesses. The term encompasses a variety of malicious activities designed to persuade people into giving away confidential information. Other types of cybercrime target security systems, but social engineering goes after the biggest weakness in an organization’s cyber defense: humans.
What Is a Social Engineering Attack?
Social engineering attacks come in various forms. The only common denominator is human interaction. The attackers, also called social engineers, can pass off as anyone and often disguise themselves as familiar figures from the company. They can pretend to be coworkers and supervisors but also outside authoritative figures such as police, bank, and tax officials.
An attacker’s main goal is to gain the victim’s confidence and then ask for information that will eventually grant the perpetrator access to the company’s sensitive data. Attackers won’t stop at the first person. It’s not unusual for social engineer attackers to contact a second employee and build a case — and credibility — using details provided by their first victim.
How to Avoid Social Engineering Attacks
Here are the five most common types of social engineering attacks:
These scams come in the form of email and text messages designed to create a sense of urgency, curiosity, or fear in victims. The idea is to prompt employees to disclose sensitive information or click on malicious links.
This social engineering attack aims to build a false sense of trust with the victim through a credible scenario. An attacker might email, text or call an employee under a believable pretext and impersonate someone in a position of power (such as their boss) in order to gain access to data and accounts.
Similar to phishing attacks, this strategy involves enticing the victim with a false promise. For example, baiters offer free music or movie downloads to trick users into giving up their login credentials.
Quid Pro Quo
A quid pro quo attack or a “something for something” attack, is a variation of baiting. Instead of goods, these attacks promise services or benefits after completing a specific action. A popular example of a quid pro quo attack is a hacker disguised as an IT expert who calls their victims and offers them some kind of software upgrade.
Also referred to as “piggybacking,” these types of attacks happen when the hacker physically follows an authenticated employee into a restricted area, such as the company’s building.
Educating employees about the dangers of social engineering attacks is the first step to avoiding future incidents. The next step is to train your staff to be vigilant of suspicious or unsolicited phone calls, emails, text messages, and even conversations initiated by individuals asking about internal information.
However, human errors are bound to happen, and your company’s most sensitive information might get into the wrong hands. One of the most effective ways to protect your data is by using secure messaging technology or encryption. Encryption keeps cybercriminals locked out by requiring a key to release a message and it ensures that your email communication can be seen by only senders and receivers.
Guard Your Business Against Social Engineering Attacks
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Contact Gold Comet today to talk about how we can keep your work private and secure. Our motto at Gold Comet is “Total Privacy for your Online Communications“. Gold Comet was established with one thing in mind that is to bring privacy to your online communications. That is why we are constantly updating our cyber security posture. We started with a patented encryption system and built upon that.