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What is social engineering?

Definition of social engineering

Social engineering is a manipulation technique that uses human error to obtain private information, access rights or objects of value. In cybercrime, these “human hacker” scams often lure unsuspecting users into exposing data, spreading malware infections, or allowing access to restricted systems. Attacks can happen online, face-to-face, and through other interactions.

Social engineering scams are based on the way people think and behave. Therefore, social engineering attacks are particularly useful for manipulating user behavior.

Furthermore, hackers are also trying to take advantage of the user’s lack of knowledge. Due to the speed of technology development, many consumers and employees are unaware of certain threats, such as unauthorized downloads. Users may also not realize the full value of personal data, such as their phone number. Therefore, many users are not sure how to best protect themselves and their information.

Social engineering have one of two goals:

Destruction: Destroy or destroy data to cause harm or inconvenience.

Theft: Obtaining valuable items, such as information, access rights, or money.

By knowing exactly how it works, the definition of social engineering can be further expanded.

How does social engineering work?

Most social engineering attacks are based on actual communication between the attacker and the victim. Attackers tend to incentivize users to compromise, rather than using brute force methods to destroy their data. The attack cycle gives these criminals a reliable process to deceive you. The steps in the social engineering attack cycle are generally as follows:

– Prepare by gathering background information about yourself or the larger group you belong to.

– Penetration when establishing a relationship or initiating an interaction, beginning with the establishment of trust.

– Once trust and weakness are established, the victim is used to advance the attack.

– Once the user has performed the required action, exit.

This process can be done in an email or in a series of chats on social networks. It can even be a face-to-face interaction. But ultimately, it ends with the actions you take, like sharing your information or exposing yourself to malware.

It is important to be careful about using social engineering as a means of obfuscation. Many employees and consumers do not realize that just a few pieces of data can allow hackers to access multiple networks and accounts.

By impersonating a legitimate user to IT support staff, they will obtain your private information, such as your name, date of birth, or address. From there, resetting the password and gaining almost unlimited access becomes a breeze. They can steal money, spread social engineering malware, etc.

Social engineering attacks focus on the attacker’s use of persuasion and trust. When exposed to these strategies, you are more likely to take actions that you would not have taken.

In most attacks, you will find yourself bewildered by the following behaviors:

Highly Emotional-Emotional manipulation gives the attacker the upper hand in any interaction. When you are in an enhanced emotional state, you are more likely to adopt irrational or risky behaviors. The following emotions are all used equally to convince you:

– Fear

– Curiosity

– Anger

– Guilt

– Sadness

– Urgency: You may make promises under the guise of serious issues that require immediate attention. Or, if you don’t act quickly, you may get prizes or rewards that may disappear. Either method will invalidate your critical thinking skills.

-Trust: For social engineering attacks, credibility is invaluable and essential. Since the attacker will eventually lie to you, trust plays an important role here. They’ve done enough research on you to produce a narrative that is easy to believe and likely not to be suspicious.

There are some exceptions to these features. In some cases, attackers use simpler social engineering methods to gain access to the network or computer. For example, hackers can frequent public food courts in large office buildings, as well as users working with tablets or laptops.

Types of social engineering attacks

Almost all types of cyber security attacks involve some form of social engineering. For example, classic email and virus scams are full of social colors.

Social engineering can affect you digitally through mobile attacks and desktop devices. However, you can easily face threats. These attacks can overlap and add to each other to create a scam.

The following are some of the methods commonly used by social engineering attackers:

Phishing attacks

Phishing attackers posing as trusted institutions or individuals, trying to persuade you to reveal personal and other data valuable items.

attacks using phishing are targeted in two ways:

spam phishing or large-scale phishing is a widespread attack that targets many users. These attacks are not personalized and are intended to catch anyone off guard.

Spear phishing and expansion, whaling, using personalized information to target specific users. Whaling attacks specifically target high-value targets, such as celebrities, top executives, and top government officials.

Whether through direct communication or through forms on fake websites, any content you share will go straight into the pockets of scammers. You can even be tricked into downloading malware that includes the next stage of phishing attacks. Each method used in phishing has a unique delivery method, including but not limited to:

A voice phishing (vishing) call can be an automatic messaging system that records all your input. Sometimes a living person can talk to you to increase confidence and urgency.

SMS phishing (smishing) SMS or mobile application messages may contain network links or follow-up messages sent via fraudulent emails or phone numbers.

Email spoofing is a more traditional phishing method that uses email to prompt you to respond or follow up in other ways. Malware Web links, phone numbers, or attachments can be used.

Angler phishing occurred on social media, where the attacker mimicked the customer service team of a trusted company. They intercept your communication with a certain brand to hijack your conversation and transfer it to private information, and then they advance the attack there.

Search engine phishing attempts to place links to fake websites at the top of search results. These can be paid ads or use legitimate optimization methods to manipulate search rankings.

Phishing link URL invites you to go to a phishing website. These links are generally provided through emails, text messages, social media messages, and online advertisements. The attacks use deceptively spelled URL or link shortening tools to hide hyperlink text or links on buttons.

In session Phishing will interrupt your normal web browsing. For example, you might see a fake login popup for the page you are currently visiting.

Baiting Attack

The baiting abuses your natural curiosity and tricks you into exposing yourself to the attacker. Usually the potential of free or exclusive things is used to exploit their manipulation. Attacks usually involve infecting you with malware.

Popular bait methods may include:

– USB drives left in public places, such as libraries and parking lots.

– Email attachment containing detailed information about free offers or fraudulent free software.

– Physical rape attack

– Physical rape involves the presence of the attacker in person, impersonating a legitimate person to access unauthorized areas or information.

Attacks of this nature are most common in business environments, such as governments, companies, or other organizations. The attacker can impersonate a representative of a well-known and trusted company vendor. Some attackers may even be employees who were recently fired because of their hatred of their former employers.

They make their identities obscure, but credible enough to avoid doubts. This requires some investigation by the attacker and involves high risks. So, if someone is trying this approach, they have identified the obvious potential for high-value rewards after success.

Pretexting Attacks

Pretexting uses deceptive identities as an “excuse” to build trust, such as directly impersonating a vendor or facility employee. Attacker shall interact to you more actively in this method. Once they convince you that they are legitimate, they will take advantage of the loopholes.

Access Tailgating Attack

Tailgating or piggybacking is the behavior of authorized personnel following into restricted access areas. The attacker may use social courtesy to allow you to open the door for you or to convince you that you also have the right to enter the area. Excuses can play a role here too.

Quid Pro Quo Attack

Quid pro quo is a term that roughly means “helping others.” In the context of phishing, this means exchanging your personal information for some kind of reward or other compensation. Participating in gifts or research offers may expose you to such attacks. The exploit comes from getting you excited about valuable things with a low investment. However, the attacker simply obtains your data and will not provide you with any reward.

DNS spoofing and cache poisoning attacks

DNS spoofing manipulates your browser and web server to access malicious websites when you enter a valid URL. Once infected with this vulnerability, redirection will continue unless inaccurate routing data is deleted from the system involved. The DNS cache poisoning attack will specifically infect your device through routing instructions so that legitimate URLs or multiple URLs can connect to fraudulent websites.

Scareware Attack

Scareware is a type of malicious software used to scare you into action. This deceptive malware uses shocking warnings to report false malware infections or claim that one of your accounts has been compromised.

Therefore, threatening software can prompt you to purchase fraudulent Internet security software or reveal private details such as your account credentials.

Watering Hole Attack

Watering Hole Attack uses malware to infect popular web pages and affect many users at the same time. Attackers need to plan carefully to find the weaknesses of a particular site. They look for unknown and patched existing vulnerabilities; such vulnerabilities are considered zero-day vulnerabilities.

At other times, they may find that the site has not updated its infrastructure to fix known issues. Website owners can choose to delay software updates to keep the software version they know about stable. Once new versions have a reliable record of system stability, they will change. Hackers abuse this behavior to attack recently patched vulnerabilities.