Social Engineering Vulnerabilities: Staying Two Steps Ahead of Hackers
April 12, 2021
Like parents dishing out preferential treatment to their fav child, workplace culture has been quick to exonerate users from the blame game of cybersecurity breaches in the past. Not anymore.
Today, the role of the user is coming under the radar in the face of increasing cyber-attacks and the need for digital self-preservation and business continuity. COVID19 came, saw, and did a number on life as we knew it. With this global pandemic came exigencies that Ok-ed remote work, giving rise to a corresponding rise in internet traffic, and an added layer of vulnerability—Social Engineering.
What is Social Engineering?
Social engineering is a tactic used by cybercriminals, involving low-tech operations. Think of it as a tech-speak version of what we know as to ‘pull off a street smart’. Rather than spending resources trying to one-up the IT defence systems, SE (Social Engineering) rather works to trigger emotions from the users—the weak link in the anti-cyber breach chain.
These emotions range from a compulsion to help, urgent need to act, fear of sanction, to other cognitive biases. Every so often, a message gets sent to a target with a view to push emotional buttons that trigger action from the user, whether to reveal sensitive data, open a malicious file, or click a dangerous link for a ‘data heist’ that’ll hand them the keys to a successful ransomware operation.
The practice of fraudsters sending phishing emails pretending to be from a legitimate, well-known law firm’ and informing you that you/your organization have an upcoming court appearance and should click on a link to view a copy of the court notice is a great example of social engineering in action. (Panicky triggers!)
Why Social Engineering?
Cybercriminals now use social engineering to skip the effort-intensive hurdle of infiltrating security systems and firewalls, since people are the weakest link in the chain. (or, in this instance, the people using it)
The recent surge in unsuspecting internet users populating the remote workforce means that this tactic is more likely to give cybercriminals leeway to infiltrating layers (upon layers) of the cyber security ecosystem.
Social Engineering Hazards
Notably, the following variants of the cyber breach has come to be associated with users at the receiving end of social engineering tactics:
The installation of rogue security software on the computer of the end-user. A continuous pop-up that demands payment for removal often follows, disrupting the system’s activities until the users pays.
Waterholing attack where the hacker infects a website they regularly visit and trust
Common phishing attacks where the criminal camouflages as a safe source in order to get personal information such as login passwords, credit card numbers, and bank account numbers.
Tailgating is also another huge risk Social Engineering victims can be susceptible to. Here, the criminal piggybacks on the user’s movement into a secure area where they have legitimate access.
Whaling attacks are often targeted towards the confidential data of higher-ranking staff of the organizations There is an increased emphasis on sensitive information that has the most economic value, giving them considerably whaleish leverage.
Smishing (not to be confused with phishing) Put simply, it’s phishing. But this time, SMS appears to be the carrier of the attack rather than traditional emails.
End users can also be a victim of pretexting where they make false claims to gain personal information or special access to resources. Pretending to be a third-party seller, he or she may ask for your complete name and title in order to authenticate your identification.
While it hardly beggars belief that businesses may have a hard time guarding against social engineering attacks since it relies on the inherent human aspect of emotions.
The psychological angle to social engineering means that a psychological twist to tech-driven security systems is necessary. This starts with education. Taking an educational approach through the creation of a cybersecurity policy and procedure document to implement preventive measures helps.
Employees could do with some coaching on the multiple ways social engineers carry out their devious operations—and things to look out for, like suspicious emails, websites, or digital material that may be lying about.
We’ll go on to list some tried-and-helpful tips below:
First, the obvious. Teach workers to check every email they receive and every device they connect to their computer. Identifying sensitive information and analyzing how it might leak during a social engineering assault can help you put countermeasures in place to reduce the threat.
Up your ‘test’ attacks to a higher level. This’ll help increase your organization’s resistance to social engineering assaults—think of it as a vaccine shot.
Use a secure waste/trash management solution and prevent data leaks so social engineers don’t gather information about your business from the dumpster to conduct spear-phishing or other targeted social engineering activities.
Increase your use of Multi-Factor Authentication.
Save Your Online Business from Social Engineering Attacks
Data leak detection and Third-Party Risk management are combined by Hermes Security’s solution to help provide the world’s most comprehensive system for monitoring and intercepting attacks. Your business will benefit from our superior vulnerability detection capabilities as we help you intercept and neutralize these Social Engineering vulnerabilities in real-time, and before they happen.