Experts are noticing something interesting with cybersecurity attacks. Some malicious hackers are shifting focus away from exploiting technical vulnerabilities in software. Instead, they’re using social engineering attacks.
A social engineering attack uses psychological manipulation to trick people into sharing confidential data or installing malicious software like ransomware or spyware. A hacker may use malicious software to commit financial or identity crimes.
Social Engineering Attacks
Let’s look at some common social engineering attacks that are hitting businesses and home users alike:
This type of social engineering attack uses fear to commit cybercrimes. For example, in an IP address scam, a hacker may bombard a person’s computer screen with popup ads that claim that he has a dangerous computer virus. The message may ask the victim to call a “tech support representative”. But, of course, the technician happens to be part of the hacking team.
A honey trap is a romance scam where a hacker team may take months to earn a victim’s trust by pretending to be romantic interests. Then, after gaining their target’s trust, they may try to commit financial crimes or yield confidential company information.
A phishing attack usually uses a fake email, text message, or social media message to trick people into downloading malware or share confidential data. Generally, phishing is easy to spot because it targets a broad range of users.
For example, a phishing email from your bank may look real until you scratch beneath the surface and notice spelling and grammatical mistakes, low-resolution images, and a link that leads you to a strange URL.
Spear Phishing Attacks
A spear-phishing attack is a more targeted phishing attack that uses personal information to appear more convincing. For example, a spear-phishing email may appear to be from your boss, employee, colleague, vendor, or potential business partner. In addition, cybercriminals can use your social media data to craft a spear-phishing attack or information from your hacked accounts.
Trojan Horse Attacks
A Trojan horse attack looks like a legitimate piece of software but is loaded with dangers. For example, a trojan malware may come in the shape of free accounting software that carries malicious infectious software designed to breach your network security defences.
Baiting is a more physical type of social engineering attack. It functions a little like a Trojan horse attack. For example, an corporate espionage agent may leave an enticing-looking piece of media like a DVD or a USB drive in an office and hope that an employee may try to use it out of curiosity. Of course, the media is infected with malware.
Some social engineering attacks, like hone traps, are made more convincing by pretexting. Here, a cybercriminal crafts a realistic backstory, or pretext, to win the target’s trust. For example, they may befriend their target online, pretending to work remotely for the same company. Over time, they may ask for a password or another type of sensitive data.
As more people work online, many cybercriminals realize that social engineering attacks are a cost-effective way to breach networks with ransomware, spyware, and other types of malware. The best way to counter a social engineering attack is education. Verify a suspicious piece of communication immediately to stay safe.