In computing, social engineering is a broad term that covers an extensive array of insidious activities conducted via human interactions. The tactic, which is employed by cybercriminals, involves psychologically manipulating targets and fooling them into exposing personal or confidential company information or committing other security breaches.
Typically, social engineering assaults involve multiple stages. A threat operator will first investigate their chosen victim to collect vital background data, like potential entry points and security protocol vulnerabilities that are necessary to implement an attack. With this information in hand, the attacker moves to stage two, obtaining their target’s trust. In stage three, they offer incentives and stimulus that will incite the user to break security measures and take specific actions requested. Such actions encouraged may be revealing private data or giving access to secure areas containing vital resources.
What makes social engineering attacks such a great threat?
The main reason why cybercriminal campaigns that employ social engineering can be so dangerous is the fact that they rely mostly on user error, instead of operating system or software vulnerabilities. Such mistakes, when made by a company system’s own user, are far more unpredictable, which makes these attacks far more difficult to spot and combat than infiltration strategies using malicious software.
The following are three of the key techniques employed by threat actors in social engineering attacks:
Bating-style attacks utilise a fake promise that sparks a target’s curiosity or greed. However, the technique is a trap that steals personally identifiable information (PII) or deploys malware. These attacks can take a physical form, with infected equipment like corrupt flash drives, or be launched online via malicious adware.
Also called scareware, from empty threats to false alarms, fraudware attacks fool users into believing their device or operating system has become infected by malware. The tactic is designed to fool them into installing software to fix it, which has the opposite effect, downloading malicious software onto systems. These attacks are commonly hidden in browser banner popups and should never be clicked on.
Probably the most well-known social engineering assaults are phishing scams and their specialised forms like whaling and spear phishing. These nefarious messaging campaigns combine tactics used in fraudware and baiting to attack, like fear, curiosity and urgency. Once the victim is suitably flustered, attackers encourage them to take particular actions, like clicking on links, downloading attachments or imparting PII or other confidential information. Links and attachments may covertly install malware, spyware and ransomware, or redirect recipients to spoofed login pages where their credentials are summarily stolen.
A secure solution
At Galaxkey, we have developed our secure platform to battle threats from threat operators lurking online. Providing a safe space for staff to communicate and collaborate, enterprises can benefit from a new level of protection. From secure document and email services to cutting-edge digital document signing, our system provides companies with the tools they need to work safely and in line with data regulations. Get in touch with our dedicated team today and explore innovative security options to your advantage with a two-week free trial.