Ransomware, phishing, botnets – there’s no shortage of malicious cyber activity. Bad actors are constantly devising increasingly creative ways to target victims, but some of the most effective are the tried and true. Social engineering is method regularly used to to penetrate systems, but what exactly is it and what are some prevention methods you can use?
Social Engineering: What is it?
This is a form of manipulation used to gain access to sensitive data and confidential information. Social engineers exploit human behavior, using deception and influence to extract information from unsuspecting victims.
These techniques include the phishing emails we warn about so often, fake phone calls, or even physical espionage. Social engineers are often successful because people often aim to please, and these bad actors can quickly take advantage of that with the illusion of trust and legitimacy.
For example, they may pose as an individual from the company’s IT department or a company administrator to trick unsuspecting victims into giving out info or performing tasks. Ever been asked to run to the store and grab a bunch of gift cards for “client gifts?”
How Are Businesses Targeted?
Businesses are prime targets for social engineers because they hold lots of valuable data. Cybercriminals would love to get their hand on your customer records, financial documents, or intellectual property, and will use various methods to do so.
- Phishing emails – the classic email with a fake invoice, tracking info, or link to reset your expiring password. Hackers send these emails hoping to catch busy, overwhelmed, or less vigilant users.
- Baiting – this technique may entice victims into giving up the goods in exchange for something of supposed value, or take advantage of human curiosity by leaving a USB drive or other media in a public place to be found. When users take the bait, they unknowingly install malicious software on their device.
- Pretexting – using false identities and stories to manipulate victims into giving out confidential information such as passwords or banking details. By building a sense of trust with the victim, their defenses are lowered and easier to slip past
Protecting Against Social Engineering
Although this form of cyber-attack is a popular method for cybercriminals, there are several social engineering prevention methods that your business can implement to help fight back.
Security Awareness Training
One of the best ways to protect against social engineering is to educate employees about security threats and how to recognize them. Training should include topics such as phishing emails, vishing, smishing, pretexting, and baiting so that employees know what to look out for and how to respond if they receive a suspicious message.
Secure Your Devices and Credentials
Install and maintain endpoint security, email security, and multi-factor authentication to help reduce the chances of unauthorized access to accounts or systems.
Data Protection Policies
Developing data protection policies can help your business stay compliant with regulations and ensure that sensitive data is secure at all times. The policy should outline proper procedures for handling confidential information as well as how to respond in the event of a security breach.
Check the Source
This method takes just a moment, but can greatly help with identifying malicious emails. When an email comes in, take a moment to look it over. Is it from a valid sender? Is it something you should be receiving? Check the spelling and grammar. If you are unsure, check with that person via a different method – call them or stop by their desk if it’s someone else in your organization.
Social engineering prevention is important even though it may appear simple. Even the smallest precautions can help protect against these malicious tactics.
Businesses should take the necessary steps to educate their employees about security threats and ensure that all data is handled securely. Taking the time to invest in preventative measures now will pay off in the long run when it comes to protecting your business.