Even as organizations bolster security to keep threat actors at bay, malicious players leverage new ways to exploit the weakest link in the security chain: humans.
Hackers use various techniques to gain access to sensitive data. Social engineering is one of the most common hacking techniques. According to KnowBe4's report, more than 90 percent of successful cyberattacks and breaches start with one or many social engineering techniques like phishing.
What is social engineering?
Social engineering is the technique of manipulating or persuading people into parting with sensitive data or information without them being aware of it. It is a non-technical way of gaining access to systems or data.
Some common social engineering techniques are:
Tailgating and piggybacking
Hackers use persuasive ways of communication and technical tricks to trap their victims. Offering bogus rewards to elicit a response and then lure the victims into disclosing sensitive login credentials and other financial details is one of the many methods the hackers use.
Often, hackers plant malware into the victims' systems by sending infected emails. Once the victims download the attachments or click on the malicious links, hackers execute illicit programs to gain complete access.
Unique types of social engineering attacks
Social engineers leverage various techniques and tricks to plant ransomware or steal sensitive data from the target. Here are 4 unique examples of social engineering attacks.
Diversion theft through phishing page:
The diversion technique of stealing sensitive data is an old-school technique. Among various diversion techniques, phishing is the most common one. Here, the attacker uses spoofed email IDs (that often look legitimate) and provides a link to the victim. The link will redirect to a fake page or login form that will look like the original one. As the victim provides the login credentials to authenticate and access their account, their credentials get transferred to the attacker. According to 2022's report by APWG's Phishing Activity Trends Report, in the first quarter of this year, there were 1,025,968 phishing attacks.
Deepfakes as social engineering attacks:
Deepfake technology, along with ML and deep learning, is escalating various cybersecurity threats. Cybercriminals leverage deepfake technology to create manipulated or synthetic digital content to lure the victims and influence them into delivering sensitive data or doing specific actions. For example, cybercriminals use the face of a reputable individual or a financial institution's owner to create video content and make it viral. The wordings of the content spark panic or persuade the viewers into performing actions that can compromise their digital security.
Baiting with fake facts and banners:
Social engineers use spam emails, social media platforms, forums, and customer inboxes to attach or share fake e-banners and links as bait to lure customers into buying a particular item. They use eye-catching and persuasive phrases like Mega discount, 50% off, free, etc., that trigger the victims to click those digital banners and links. Once the victim clicks the link, it will download malware or install illicit programs into the system that can steal sensitive data or give the attackers unfettered access.
As organizations started embracing SMS texting to communicate with employees and outsourced partners, and potential customers, SMS phishing also gained momentum. In this social engineering technique, scammers send illicit text messages with links that contain MFA bypassing or spoofing techniques. SMS phishing can also redirect the attacker to a malicious website that can steal sensitive information and credentials from the phone and download malware.
Preventive measures against social engineering attacks
Technology has become an important part of our lives, and it is hard to avoid using it. However, we can be cautious about the type of information we share online and with whom we share it. Here are some preventive measures against social engineering attacks:
Be wary of offers that sound too good to be true or that show a sense of urgency
Don't open email attachments sent by anyone you don't know
Use complex passwords with multi-factor authentication
Leverage AI and ML-based dynamic authentication validation techniques like adaptive authentication for advanced security
In the case of deepfake content, organizations, employees, or individuals should immediately send an email to the official email address of the company, asking whether the content is valid. The sender can also attach the link to the content that might sound suspicious.
Social engineering attacks are on the rise, and it is important to be aware of the different types of attacks so that we can take preventive measures. Organizations need to educate their employees about social engineering attacks and should have a robust authentication mechanism in place. Employees should also be encouraged to report any suspicious activity to the security team.