What Is Social Engineering in Cyber Security

A lock sitting in a laptop keyboard representing social engineering in cyber security

With the emergence of the internet, the ways people do business are improving.

Things are getting relatively faster, better, and more efficient.

However, it is almost impossible to escape its dark side.

As many people use the internet for productive purposes, there are a few who use it for criminal purposes.

Recent cybersecurity statistics showed that over 43% of cyber attacks target small businesses and 62% of them have experienced phishing & social engineering attacks.

Social engineering attack types range from malicious software to quo attack to voice phishing and various forms of phishing scams.

In this article, we will explore what social engineering in cyber security is all about. And how you can protect yourself. 

What is Cybersecurity

The term “cybersecurity” has been used since the early 1990s, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s that the term started to appear in government agency budgets.

Since then, cybersecurity has become an area of increasing interest for governments and businesses around the world.

When most people think of cybersecurity, they tend to think of network security or antivirus software.

However, cybersecurity is much broader than just keeping your computer safe from hackers.

It involves protecting all types of data – private and public – on electronic devices.

When you’re working on a document or posting photos, you are using information technology (IT).

Cybersecurity includes the protection of IT infrastructure as well as the use of IT for personal or organizational purposes.

The types of threats that exist today are many and varied, and they are constantly changing.

The biggest threat that anyone will face when it comes to cyber security is identity theft.

What this means is that someone has gained access to your bank account or credit card information without your knowledge.

They can then use this information to purchase items online or even take out loans in your name.

This can happen if you have not taken enough precautions to protect yourself. Or if you have given away too much personal information about yourself on social media platforms.

Another way people get their identity stolen is by having malware installed on their computers through an email attachment. Or an online download that they believe was safe.

Aside from this, lots of malicious websites are out there, laden with malicious links and phishing emails, perpetrating all forms of social engineering attacks.

Once this happens, hackers can gain access to all of your financial information, including bank account numbers and credit card numbers.

We already cover a full guide on cybersecurity if you want to learn more about it. 

What Then Is Social Engineering in Cyber Security?

The common understanding of social engineering is to influence people to perform specific tasks based on some general knowledge of how the person usually behaves.

However, with advancements in the internet and cyber security, social engineering has become very complex and dangerous.

This is why companies nowadays are spending huge amounts on different kinds of cyber security testing even though most companies claim that they do regular penetration testing.

Social engineering should be looked at as a fraud scheme which refers to the art of deceiving a person into giving out sensitive information.

These social engineers often have a false sense of urgency.

Social engineering, sometimes called human hacking, is a form of computer security attack which aims to gain unauthorized access to systems and information.

This is made possible by exploiting the trust relationship between an organization and its customers, employees, and other parties.

This was a definition of social engineering in cybersecurity as well. 

Types of Social Engineering

Although there are various social engineering strategies…

According to recent studies, more than 90% of successful hacks and data breaches start with a common type of social engineering attack called phishing.

With that, let’s talk about 3 common social engineering tactics.

1. Phishing

This is a social engineering technique in which an attacker sends fraudulent emails, claiming to be from a reputable and trusted source.

A social engineer, for example, could send an email purporting to be from your bank’s customer success manager.

They may claim to have important account information but require you to respond with your full name, birth date, social security number, and account number first in order for them to verify your identity.

Finally, the person emailing is not a bank employee; he or she is attempting to steal private information.

Phishing, in general, casts a wide net and attempts to reach as many people as possible.

A very common type of Phishing attack is spear phishing. The second is whaling.

In a spear-phishing attack, the social engineer will have done their research and set their sites on a particular user. 

By scouring through the target’s public social media profiles and using Google to find information about them, the attacker can create a compelling, targeted attack.

On the other hand, Whaling just like the name implies targets the big fishes of the companies such as the CEOs and CFOs, instead of targeting an average user.   

2. Vishing & Smishing

This type of social engineering attacks not only your email inbox but also your voicemail and text message inbox.

These social engineers are extremely skilled and can leave convincing, high-urgency voice memos requesting action from your staff.

Working from home is even scarier, because your employees may consider a virtual message which might seem normal — while away from the office.

Oftentimes, these social engineers will weave a false story or situation (called pretexting) to convince your remote staff to share confidential information.

3. Baiting & Quid Pro Quo

Social engineers know that most employees might get attracted to greedy offers — they send offers that are too good to be true. 

They understand the basic rules of catching fish, such as stringing some bait on a hook and casting a line.

This enticing bait could be something as simple as a free video download that infects their device with malware.

A quid pro quo is similar to a baiting attack. In this case, the social engineer provides a service rather than a product.

This could be an email offering a free trial of a new product despite the fact that you never requested one.

Recent examples include impersonators of the United States Social Security Administration (SSA), who ask users to reconfirm their social security number in order to steal their identity.

How Can Small Businesses Protect Themselves from Social Engineering?

The following are ways small business owners can protect themselves from Social Engineering. 

1. It Starts With Education 

Obviously, if all employees know what baiting, phishing, and pretexting are, they will not fall victim to it. 

Employees should learn that while curiosity sometimes leads to discovery, it is not always a good thing. 

They must exercise extreme caution at all times. They should also “be wary of anything good being given away for free.” Anything provided for free should be validated, and any entity providing something for free should be verified.

2. Not Revealing Sensitive Company Information

Simply inform the person on the other end that the basic company information is publicly available on the company’s website.

If they want more information, they can leave their contact information and a company representative will contact them.

When asked for their contact information, most pretexts will no longer proceed.

3. Invest in an Identification System

Investing in an identification system that not only restricts office access but also tracks an employee’s time in and out will save you a lot of trouble.

In addition, install the online filters, security programs, anti-virus systems and ensure outputs from employees (who are working from home) are encrypted.

4. Establish Two-step Authentication Policies

Establish this strategy for all company accounts and services, including sensitive data and applications. 

Two-step authentication requires users not only to enter their username and password but also a code that is sent to their mobile phone via text message.

It makes sure that even if a hacker guesses an employee’s password, they cannot gain access unless they also have their cell phone.

5. Install Automatic Locks 

Putting automatic locks on all devices is a great way for business owners to protect themselves from Social Engineering. 

When you install automatic locks on computers, they go to sleep mode when the user is not using them. As a result, in order to use the system again, the user must enter the password.

This will prevent any unauthorized person from gaining access to confidential information if an employee leaves the computer unattended,

Wrapping Up 

As social engineering threats increases, it is critical that small business owners take preventive steps and remain proactive on Cybersecurity issues.

C-level executives should organize security awareness training each time new employees are recruited. This will go a long way to give the company a great security culture.

This is very necessary because all it takes is one employee to make a mistake and fall victim to a social engineering attack. And the whole company could become vulnerable. 

So, every entrepreneur should protect their business by arming employees with technical knowledge and implementing adequate security policies and programs.