Social engineering is the art of manipulating individuals into divulging confidential information or performing specific actions that may lead to security breaches. Unlike traditional hacking methods that exploit system vulnerabilities, social engineering targets the human element, leveraging psychological manipulation to achieve its objectives. There are a growing number of social engineering attack types, here are some examples:
- Definition: Vishing, or voice phishing, is a form of social engineering where attackers use the telephone to deceive individuals into providing sensitive information.
- Example: A scammer might call posing as a bank representative, claiming there’s a problem with the victim’s account and requesting personal details to “verify their identity.”
2. Spear Phishing
- Definition: Spear phishing is a targeted form of phishing where attackers customize their deceptive messages to a specific individual or organization. Unlike broad phishing campaigns, spear phishing is more refined and often involves in-depth research about the target.
- Example: An employee might receive an email that appears to come from their CEO, asking them to transfer funds to a particular account or to click on a link that installs malware.
- Definition: Baiting involves offering something enticing to the victim to lure them into a trap. The bait could be a physical device, like a USB drive, or a digital file that promises valuable content.
- Example: A scammer might leave a USB drive labeled “Employee Salaries” in a company’s parking lot. Curious employees who plug the drive into a computer might unknowingly install malicious software.
- Definition: Pretexting is a technique where attackers create a fabricated scenario (the pretext) to obtain information from the victim. This method relies heavily on building trust and often involves impersonation.
- Example: An attacker might call an employee posing as an IT support person, claiming they need certain details to complete a system update.
5. Trap Phishing
- Definition: Trap phishing is a lesser-known method where attackers set up traps in online platforms, such as forums or social media, waiting for users to share sensitive information inadvertently.
- Example: A scammer might create a forum post claiming to offer tech support for a popular software. Unsuspecting users might share details about their system or even passwords, thinking they are receiving genuine help.
- Definition: Tailgating, also known as “piggybacking”, involves an attacker seeking entry to a restricted area without proper authentication by following another person who has legitimate access.
- Example: An attacker might wait by a secure entrance until an employee uses their access card. As the door opens, the attacker follows closely behind without the employee’s knowledge.
- Definition: Quizzing is a technique where the attacker approaches the target under the guise of conducting a survey or quiz. The questions are designed to extract sensitive information subtly.
- Example: An attacker might approach employees outside their office, claiming to be conducting a tech survey. The questions might be framed to gather information about the company’s IT infrastructure.
- Definition: Impersonation involves the attacker pretending to be someone else, such as a coworker, IT support, or a trusted third party, to gain access to sensitive information or areas.
- Example: An attacker might call an employee claiming to be from the IT department, asking for login credentials to “fix” a non-existent issue.
Social engineering exploits human psychology rather than technical vulnerabilities. As cyber threats continue to evolve, understanding and guarding against these tactics is crucial for both individuals and organizations. Regular training and awareness campaigns can help in recognizing and preventing social engineering attacks.