What Is Social Engineering?

Social engineering uses deception and human interaction to manipulate people into performing a certain action, like giving up confidential information. In some cases, criminals try to trick individuals into giving up their bank information or passwords. Other times, the criminal may install malicious software on a device so that they can control the device and have access to confidential information. Hackers use social engineering tactics because it is often easier to take advantage of weaknesses in people rather than looking for a software or network vulnerability.
social engineering

5 Types of Social Engineering

There are numerous different types of social engineering. We highlighted 5 popular ones for you.

1. Phishing

Phishing is a form of social engineering in which an attacker poses as a trustworthy person or organization and sends an email that tries to trick the target into opening an infected attachment or visiting a malicious website. The email may appear to come from a friend or another trusted source, such as the target’s bank. In most instances, these emails will contain a link that leads to a malicious website or prompts the target to enter confidential information. After infecting the device with malware, the criminal will have access to the device and the victim’s personal information.

2. Baiting

Baiting is a type of social engineering that entices someone to take a certain action. For example, a criminal may leave a malware-infected USB drive in a place where someone is likely to find it. The criminal may label the USB drive in an enticing way like “Payroll” or “Confidential” to trick someone into taking it and plugging it into their computer, which will infect their computer with the malware. Another example of baiting is enticing someone to download a movie or music.

3. Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo involves an exchange of some sort. Impersonating an IT support technician, a criminal may call a target and ask for their login credentials in order to perform technical support. Once the criminal has access to the device, they can infect it with malware or steal personal information.

4. Tailgating

A physical form of social engineering, tailgating occurs when an unauthorized individual walks into a secured building by following an authorized individual. For example, someone at work might ask you to hold the door open for them because they left their access card at home.

5. Scareware

Scareware involves tricking the victim into thinking that their device is infected with a virus. When the attacker offers a solution to fix the malware or other fake problem, they take the opportunity to install malware.

Tips to Avoid Being a Victim

There are methods and steps you can take to avoid being a victim of social engineering. The most important steps you can take revolve around recognizing the common signs of social engineering and paying attention to details. For organizations, security awareness training can go a long way in helping prevent attacks. Here are a few tips to avoid being a victim.

1. Slow Down. Be skeptical of messages or requests that convey a sense of urgency. Hackers try to distract people with urgency, so it’s important to slow down and think carefully before acting.
2. Always verify requests. If you get a request from a friend or an organization such as your bank, you should always verify these requests. Directly call your friend or the organization, and ask if the request is legitimate.
3. Be suspicious. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Never click on unsolicited or suspicious-looking links. It’s safer to type URLs directly into your browser.
4. Set your spam filter to high. To check the status of your spam filter, look in the settings options of your email. Having your spam filter on the highest setting will help filter out scams that you might accidentally click on.
5. Secure your devices. Install antivirus software and firewalls on your devices, and then make sure that they are always up to date.

Be Alert

By educating yourself and staying alert, you’re much less likely to become a victim. Just like technology, social engineering is constantly evolving. It’s important to stay up to date on the latest threats, so you can avoid being a victim.


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