The Pitfalls of Social Engineering and How You Will Avoid It

The Pitfalls of Social Engineering and How You Will Avoid It

Social engineering attacks are not only becoming more frequent against businesses and SMBs but are also becoming more and more complex. Hackers are creating innovative strategies to trick staff and individuals into providing sensitive company info. Individuals and businesses must practice due diligence to remain ahead of these cyber criminals and know how to respond to possible attacks.

What is Social Engineering?

Social engineering is the art of influencing individuals to lure them into giving away confidential information. The types of details these criminals are targeting may differ. When attacked, criminals are usually attempting to manipulate you to give them your passwords or bank information. They will make you provide access to your computer to install malicious software. Once installed, it can become their entry to find other confidential information like your credit card details, business details, and more.

Cyber-criminals mostly use social engineering techniques in their attacks. In fact, 98% of cyber-attacks utilizes social engineering tactics. That is because it is easier to leverage your innate emotions to trust easily than to find ways to hack your mobile devices or computers. For example, it is quicker to fool people to give you their password than to find ways to crack their password; otherwise, the password is weak.

What Social Engineering Attacks May Looks Like

Phishing attacks are a variant of a social engineering technique that mimics a trustworthy source or renowned companies. It fabricates a plausible scenario for handing over a username or other confidential personal data. Aside from this, here are some looks of a possible social engineering attack.

  1. Email From A Friend

    When a hacker tries to crack or socially engineer a person’s email address, they can access that person’s contact list. Since most people use one password anywhere, they have access to the victim’s social media profiles.
    Once a hacker controls a particular email address or profile, they can send emails to all of the victim’s associated contacts. Taking advantage of your trust and curiosity, you will receive messages that can contain:
    • A link that will capture your attention. When the link comes from a friend, and you’re interested, you’ll believe in the link and open it. Once clicked, it can compromise you with ransomware so that cyber-criminals can take over your computer. It can also gather data about your contacts and trick them just like you’ve been cheated.
    • Several images, songs, movies, and records have malicious malware inserted in it. If you download the file, your computer will get contaminated. Now the criminal has access to your devices. Attacks can then extend to your email address, social network channels, and other contacts.
  2. Answer To A Question

    Hackers could attempt to respond to your’ request for assistance’ from a particular business entity. Most cybercriminals select businesses that have millions of customers, such as a tech firm or a bank.
    That can happen when you posed a question or asked for assistance like repairing your computer’s operating system. Cybercriminals will use this as a chance to answer your question or call for help and offer you services. When you fall into their lies and trust them, they can easily manipulate you to give confidential pieces of information.
    The agent, a hacker, or a thief, will then need to ‘authenticate’ you. They will make you log in to a “website” to give them remote access to your computer so that they can ‘fix’ it. They can also give you a command you can fix your computer yourself. However, these commands are loopholes that will serve as their entryway to your computer system.
  3. Tech Support Scam

    In the tech support scam, initial contact is always made via a phone call. Alternatively, a computer popup that is often hard to get rid of could suggest that there’s a computer problem like a virus and give a number to dial. Scammers will claim to be technicians from big corporations like Microsoft and ask the victim to allow remote access to their computer.
    When they have access, the fraudster is free to do whatever they want inside your system, including downloading malware or accessing personal accounts. At times, fraudsters will ask the user to enter their online banking account and to perform a “test” activity to determine it’s working.
  4. Account Access

    Although there are numerous and varied phishing schemes, another prevalent form of phishing scheme targets consumers of major corporations such as Facebook, Netflix, and PayPal. The user will receive a phishing email that appears to come from the organization on a generic subject, such as changing payment details or canceling an account.
    The victim will be made to visit a link to the company’s website. However, that link is a phishing link that leads to a fake phishing website intended to collect user login information like usernames and passwords. Once the hacker has access to the account, they can now find out more personal information like credit card details, transactions, contact friends and immediate family members, and more.

Ways On How To Avoid Social Engineering

As social engineering remains one of the widespread cybersecurity threats, you must find ways to avoid being susceptible to these types of attacks.

  1. Verify Whom You Are Talking To

    Scammers will bring a sense of urgency to demands, so be always alert. The key is to pause and take the time to check the validity of the request. If someone is coming in person at home or your office, ask for an identification card, then schedule another time to meet.
    If it is a phone call, ask for the person’s name and a callback number so you can check. Hackers also impersonate individuals you meet, such as family members or coworkers. Ask questions to check their identity.
    When reached through email or SMS, check the identity online. Research to find the official contact details and validate the identity of the person who contacted you.
  2. Have A Common Sense

    Many attacks happen because of human error. As a human being, you are expected to make mistakes. Nonetheless, using common sense is the smartest thing you can do to make sure you will not become a social engineering victim. Never expose your personal and financial details to anyone. That covers usernames, passwords, PIN codes, and other information that might lead you to be exploited.
    Social engineers also lure customers with deals that are almost too tempting to get through. Take the time to consider how practical it is when considering any bargain. Remember that if it seems too good to be real, maybe it is not after all.
  3. Reject Request For Help

    Legitimate businesses and organizations should not contact you to offer assistance. If you did not seek assistance from any business entity, consider any attempt to help’ recover credit ratings, refinance a property, or answer any question, a scam. Similarly, if you get a letter for support from a charity or company that you do not have a partnership with, ignore it. To donate, search for legitimate charity organizations on your own to stop falling for a con.
  4. Set Your Spam Filters

    Each email program has spam detection. To find yours, look at your configuration options and set them on a high level. Remember to search your spam folder regularly to see if valid emails get unintentionally stuck there.
  5. Secure Your Computer

    While social engineering relies on human contact, it can help to protect your device and apps. For example, spam filters are becoming increasingly adept at detecting fake emails and stopping them from accessing your inbox.
    Security software, such as antivirus and comprehensive internet security suites, also provides tools to detect or block phishing communications. It can do its job in shielding networks against the direct threat faced by malware.
  6. Always Have 2FA

    When anyone knows or deducts your account credential with a brute force or similar attack, putting an additional authentication phase in place will help a lot. Many platforms provide two-step authentication (2FA), where a second step is required after entering your regular login information. This second step is usually a code obtained via text or email.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes, security is all about deciding whom to trust and not to trust. It’s essential to determine when you will trust a person and their words. Be cautious with the people you deal with as they may not be the person you think they are. The same applies to sites and other internet forums. Always check if a particular site is genuine, and it is safe to provide critical information. Data breaches happen all the time. However, if you are wise enough to detect a social engineering attack, it can end any cyber-crime impending to happen.



Maricar worked as a marketing professional for almost a decade and handled concerts, events and community service-related activities. Leaving her corporate job for good to pursue her dreams, she has now ventured in the path of content writing and currently writes for Softvire Australia and Softvire New Zealand. A Harry Potter fan, she loves to watch animated series and movies during her spare time.

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