Social engineering exploits a company’s cyber infrastructure through its weakest links— the employees. It is a type of people-centric scam that takes advantage of a human’s innate behavior to trust, please and comply. It functions by tricking people into divulging login credentials and sensitive information that’s needed to access the company’s network, systems and other assets.
The hackers most of us are familiar with leverage their technical knowledge to enter our networks, but the ones that use social engineering as their modus operandi, exploit human psychology to get their hands on confidential information. For example, they may target someone specific within a department by sending them an email that looks as if it’s from a boss or coworker. The email would contain a compelling scenario (pretexting) where sharing your credentials seems logical. Once the scammer gets your account information, it is then used to bring their nefarious plans to fruition.
There are several strategies you can implement to ensure that your current network doesn’t have any unguarded gaps that can be invaded and misused. Penetration testing is a popular solution businesses use to protect themselves from cyber crimes. If you’d like to learn more about what its all about, take a look at this article.
That said, there are common social engineering traps you and your employees should be aware of to avoid becoming a victim. Here are 4 easy ones:
1. Don’t fall for the “Lost and Found USB” trick
This is a seasoned trick that scammers use to infiltrate your company network with trojans and viruses. It goes like this— A USB is left at a parking lot, hallway, restrooms, or another public space, which a curious and unsuspecting employee picks up and inserts it into a company computer. This action ends up injecting the system with malicious code.
2. Be wary of the phone calls
The best way to build trust is through one-on-one human interaction. This is why hackers use phone calls to try to trick you into disclosing personal information, such as passwords. They can pose as tech support investigating a computer problem (which they might have created or doesn’t exist), or someone from within your department. Instead of handing over data to them, offer to call them back. Look up their phone number and verify the veracity of their claim before calling back.
3. If it sounds odd, it probably is
Be very careful when opening emails and text from family or coworkers soliciting money or personal information. Call to verify that the email is actually from them since hackers have been known to spoof email addresses that may look very similar to someone you know. Many times we might not pay attention to the slight discrepancy in the address and think its legitimate.
4. Check the source
Spear phishing attacks are commonly used against high-power individuals (like the CEO) who hold valuable information exclusively available to them. Hackers target these specific employees by researching them thoroughly, then creating emails that are hyper-personal. These employees get lured into clicking links to fraudulent websites or opening malicious attachments that compromise the company’s network. Next time you get an email reporting “unusual activity detected” from a social media platform you frequently browse, go directly to the website and log in, instead of clicking on any links through the email.
Holding cybersecurity as the top priority of everyone in your company is the strongest way to make your organization an impossible target for hackers. Because social engineering relies so heavily on the gullibility of employees, educating your team about security will prevent them from falling for these scams and getting your network hijacked.