In cybersecurity, no matter the strength of your passwords or security measures, hackers and scammers are aware of a persistent vulnerability: you. Social engineering attacks exploit this “human loophole” to bypass cybersecurity defences.
Rather than directly hacking your accounts, these attacks manipulate you through techniques like phishing, imposter fraud, and various other scams. This is known as ‘social engineering.’ Understanding these tactics is essential in strengthening your defences against such attempts to protect your identity and sensitive information.
What is social engineering?
Social engineering refers to the psychological manipulation of individuals to gain unauthorised access to sensitive information or influence their behaviour for malicious purposes. Fraudsters and hackers employ a psychological tactic to exploit human trust, naivety, and natural inclination to help others.
Social engineering techniques involve creating deceptive scenarios, impersonating trusted entities, and exploiting emotions to trick people into divulging confidential data, performing specific actions, or granting unauthorised access. This can include tactics such as pretexting, baiting, phishing, and more.
Types of social engineering attacks
There are eight major types of social engineering attacks, which we share below. By understanding social engineering tactics, individuals and organisations can better protect themselves against such manipulative attempts and safeguard their personal and sensitive information.
- Phishing attacks
Phishing attacks involve fraudulent attempts to obtain sensitive information like passwords, credit card details, or personal data. Attackers masquerade as trustworthy entities, often through email or instant messaging, luring victims into clicking on malicious links or providing their confidential information.
Whaling is a phishing attack that targets explicitly high-profile individuals or executives. Attackers aim to deceive them into divulging sensitive corporate information or granting access to valuable resources.
Baiting entices victims with enticing offers or rewards to trick them into performing actions that compromise their security. This can include clicking on links, downloading infected files, or revealing personal information, all under the guise of receiving something valuable.
Piggybacking or tailgating occurs when an unauthorised individual gains physical access to a restricted area by following closely behind an authorised person. The attacker gains entry without proper authentication by exploiting their trust or inattentiveness.
Pretexting involves creating a false identity or scenario to deceive individuals. Fraudsters might pose as authorities, employees, or trustworthy individuals to gain the target’s confidence and manipulate them into sharing sensitive information or performing actions that benefit the attacker.
- Business Email Compromise (BEC)
BEC is a sophisticated scam that targets businesses by impersonating executives or suppliers through email. The attacker deceives employees into making financial transactions or revealing sensitive data, leading to financial loss or data breaches.
Scareware involves tricking users into believing their computer is infected with malware or viruses. Attackers display alarming pop-up messages or fake antivirus software, urging victims to pay for unnecessary fixes or download malware-infected programs.
Build security awareness against these fraud tactics
Protecting yourself from social engineering scams requires attention, caution, and proactive measures. Here are some practical tips to help avoid falling victim to these manipulative tactics:
- Be vigilant and sceptical: Develop a healthy level of scepticism towards unsolicited communications, whether emails, phone calls, or messages. Verify the identity of the sender or caller before sharing any personal or sensitive information. Remember, legitimate organisations won’t request sensitive data
via unsolicited means.
- Think before you click: Avoid clicking on suspicious links, especially those received from unfamiliar or untrusted sources. Hover over links to check their destinations before clicking. Be cautious of shortened URLs, as they can hide malicious websites. When in doubt, verify the link’s legitimacy by visiting the website or contacting the organisation directly.
- Keep software up to date: Regularly update your operating system, antivirus software, web browsers, and other applications. These updates often include security patches that protect against known vulnerabilities, reducing the risk of falling prey to social engineering attacks.
- Educate yourself and others: Stay informed about the latest social engineering tactics and common scams. Regularly educate yourself and your loved ones about the warning signs and techniques fraudsters use. By sharing knowledge and discussing these topics, you can collectively increase awareness and strengthen your defences.
- Implement robust security measures: Use strong, unique passwords for all your accounts and enable multi-factor authentication whenever possible. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring a secondary verification step, such as a fingerprint scan or a unique code sent to your phone.
- Be cautious with personal information: Avoid sharing sensitive information, such as passwords or financial details, unless necessary and with trusted entities. Be wary of providing personal information over the phone or responding to unsolicited requests.
Fight back against phishing attacks with FraudWatch
We’re a global organisation safeguarding over 4000 brands from online fraud. Based in Melbourne, our Security Operations Centre is staffed by expert analysts who tirelessly monitor and eliminate phishing and malware sites, site takedowns, fake social media profiles, and deceptive mobile apps. Operating round-the-clock, 365 days a year, we prioritise immediate detection and rapid response for robust online brand protection.
Powered by our in-house anti-phishing tools developed exclusively by us, we have emerged as leaders in online brand protection. Partner with FraudWatch and fortify your brand’s digital presence with our cutting-edge solutions.