Social engineering is a tool of psychological manipulation. Cybercriminals exploit human errors and behaviours to conduct a cyberattack and trick users into making security mistakes. Social engineering attacks typically rely on human interaction, often using some form of Active Manipulation to trick users into performing actions or divulging confidential information.
Social engineering is a psychological trick.
It is easier to manipulate human trust than to find a way to hack software. In other words, it plays on people’s natural tendency to trust. Moreover, security itself is all about trust: knowing what and who to trust. Especially with digital or online interaction, it is vital to understand whether the source you access is trustworthy or not.
Cybercriminals who conduct social engineering attacks are called social engineers.
Unlike traditional cyberattacks, social engineering focuses on human vulnerability instead of security vulnerability. The success of social engineering attacks depends on the ability of attackers to manipulate victims.
There are two kinds of goals that social engineers pursue: sabotage and theft. The first one includes obtaining valuable information through installing malicious software. The second one focuses on getting the actual money by accessing personal passwords or bank cards.
Social engineering attacks can be explained in a life cycle of four stages:
- The preparation stage includes identifying a victim, gathering all necessary information about a potential victim like access to social media accounts, emails, phone numbers, and choosing the attack type at the end.
- The hook stage includes approaching a victim through a trustworthy source to engage a victim in human interaction.
- The exploitation stage includes requesting information from a victim as logins, passwords, payment methods, contact information.
- The exit stage is when a social engineer stops communicating with a victim and commits a cyber attack.
The lack of trust in digital communication is the same warning sign as low cyber security awareness.
Implementing advanced cyber security measures
- Implementing advanced cyber security measures.
- Creating a positive security culture. Employees should not feel ashamed or guilty of being victims. They should feel encouraged to report the incident.
- Training employees to learn psychological triggers. Employees should be aware of what to look for and what to expect from a social engineer.