Why Social Engineering Is A Threat in 2021
According to Oxford, social engineering is defined as “the use of deception to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential and personal information that may be used for fraudulent purposes”.
To protect yourself against threats online, you should follow all the recommended steps like updating your OS, fortifying your firewall, and installing security suites.
You might think that you’re safe with all these measures in place. However, there’s more to it.
Hackers these days rely on social engineering to gain access to your personal information which can cause more harm than any technological threat.
This is an insidious, slippery method used by hackers to target your inherent cognitive bias to trick you into disclosing confidential information such as your passwords, bank details, phone numbers, and more.
Also, they can use this method to install malware on your computer to get unrestricted access and information.
This threat is presented in a very common manner. You’ll usually get an email or phone call that seems legitimate and coming from a trusted source.
This is where the danger starts. Read on to find out how to spot and protect yourself from this sort of attack.
What A Social Engineering Attack Looks Like
This attack usually involves the following four steps:
- Gathering Information - This is the most crucial step that defines how successful an attack will be. For example, using social media and networking sites to collect information on the victim.
- Engage & Lure - Attackers will then devise a plan and contact their target using methods like VoIP, email, SMS, or by way of impersonation and pretexting. This is known as “spoofing”, and it involves imitating the real source to gain information from you, or cause you to take an action.
- Attack & Control - At this step, the attackers have retrieved the information they need, potentially leaving malware behind too. For example, a victim clicks on a password reset link and enters their current password and a new one, unknowingly granting access to the attackers.
- Escape Plan - The attacker smoothly covers up the attack and deletes any potential traces without raising suspicion.
How To Detect And Protect Yourself
Although phishing attacks are very common and short-lived, only a few users need to take the bait for a successful campaign. Fortunately, there are ways to recognize and protect yourself from such attacks.
Usually, just paying attention to the information that’s presented is enough to spot a scam.
- Be very cautious about any unsolicited advice or support, particularly when it needs action from you, like clicking on a link or downloading a file. Any spontaneous login or personal information requests are most likely a social engineering attack.
- Pay attention if you get a call from someone who appears to be tech support or get an unscheduled safety check. Tech support is unlikely to check for issues unless you raise one. Review visits are mostly attempted to install software on your machines such as keyloggers.
- Carefully review all messages and research the facts, especially if it conveys a sense of urgency coming from a trusted company.
To protect yourself against such attacks keep the following in mind:
- Employ technological solutions such as DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) that are designed to detect and quarantine spoofed emails.
- Have a strong security policy in your organization and provide security awareness training for your workers.
- Secure your computers and other devices using automatic OS updates, installing antivirus software, firewalls, email filters, and keeping them up-to-date.
- Use anti-phishing tools offered by either the browser or trusted third-parties like your security suite.
How An Antivirus Can Help
As explained above, social engineering and phishing attacks are techniques rather than software or hardware. You should be vigilant at all times to avoid becoming a victim. It’s advised to stay up to date on the latest scams and information security news.
These attacks usually involve physical hardware and software for the attack to happen. Therefore, in case of a breach, you should install antivirus software if you haven’t already. Antivirus software alone won’t protect you from such attacks, but it is a necessity for damage control.
A complete antivirus and security solution is recommended as it includes a rootkit removal tool that eliminates any keyloggers and trojans, a password manager that should come in handy when changing your passwords, and anti-phishing tools that scan your emails for potentially malicious emails and attachments.
Social engineering attacks are more common than we think and the attackers’ methods keep evolving. We have to remain aware and informed to avoid falling prey to these scams.
As always, prevention is the best defense, and knowledge is power. Vigilance paired with some technological aids will keep you safe from this new-age type of security threat.