During the pandemic, with the increasing trend of working from home in a time of uncertainty, social engineering attacks spiked; cybercrime rose by 300% according to the FBI, with 61% of organizations receiving SMiShing attacks, and 54% experiencing vishing too. Exploiting the vulnerabilities associated with working from home, attackers were incredibly successful, with the first quarter of 2020 seeing a 273% increase in breaches from 2019, according to Identity Force. Statistically, the rise of attacks has been huge and, with the threat of social engineering continually growing, it’s crucial that organizations and users are aware of how to detect and respond to them.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the different types of social engineering techniques used, how to spot them, and what you can do to prevent them.
What Is Social Engineering?
In a nutshell, social engineering covers a range of methods that cybercriminals use to try and manipulate users, such as phishing, vishing and SMiShing. Social engineering attacks are intricate, deceitful and one of the most effective ways of stealing data from organizations. Relying on human error, the attacks are designed to trick the recipient into making security mistakes and compromising private data, which is why they are so effective.
Social engineering does not rely on cybercriminals exploiting software vulnerabilities or hacking systems with advanced malware. Instead, it relies on exploiting users who make mistakes, such as sharing personal and financial data or by entering forms on malicious webpages, which can have dangerous consequences for your business.
What Types Of Social Engineering Attacks Are Out There?
There are several types of social engineering attacks that an organization can face, as the attacks center around any form of human interaction. Here are three of the most common forms of social engineering attacks:
Phishing is a form of cybercrime based on email, phone (vishing) or text (SMiShing) fraud, that aims to instill urgency and fear into the recipient. With this added pressure, the attack will provoke the recipient to reveal personal data via link clicking, form entering and opening malware infested attachments. For instance, a typical example of a phishing email would be where a cybercriminal poses as an online service provider, warning the organization—via email—that they are violating specific policies or privacy, and that it requires immediate actions.
Usually, the email will contain a link to the fraudulent website, where the recipient will be prompted to enter forms with their user credentials, leaving the information in the possession of the attacker. However, due to the rise and prominence of phishing over recent times—75% of businesses worldwide having experienced an attack in 2020—a lot of businesses are aware of phishing attacks and have implemented a layer of email security to help defend against them. However, attackers are finding increasingly sophisticated ways to bypass legacy email security solutions so some attacks do still hit. It’s important that you remember what to look out for and stay alert!
If you want to know how to stop phishing attacks, click the link below to find out more: https://expertinsights.com/insights/how-to-stop-phishing-attacks/
Spear phishing is a more intricate form of phishing whereby the attacker targets specific businesses or organizations. The difference between phishing and spear phishing lies in the messages that are sent—spear phishing messages are tailor-made for the targeted business, and require much more work on the behalf of the attacker. Spear phishing attacks can be angled to take several weeks in some cases, where playing the long game may result in more valuable data to be exposed. With the messages being tailored to the business, they can be much harder to spot and unfortunately, have higher success rates if the execution is correct.
Spear phishing messages usually involve the impersonation of a trusted sender, like an IT service desk, and the message may be sent to an individual or small group of colleagues—unlike a traditional phishing attempt, which can target hundreds of recipients at once. The messages are constructed exactly like that of the original source, fooling the recipient into thinking they need to act, not knowing that it is a scam. The message will, most of the time, target account validation by asking recipients to change their passwords or login credentials with a redirecting link, and then a form fill-out, where the information is submitted to the attacker.
Vishing is phishing via phone, where the attacker attempts to convince the recipient to share personal information such as financial records, login credentials and more. The subject of the call is usually based around a user’s account with a company, claiming that it has been compromised, or law enforcement, debt collection or even software installment.
The attackers can call hundreds of people at a time through the use of VoIP (voice over internet protocol) technology, which helps cloak the call by sounding identical to that of a bank or service provider, for instance.
Similar to email phishing, the calls focus on creating a sense of urgency, as this causes the panic to increase the vulnerability of the recipient. As a result, the chances of personal information being shared are higher. The attacker then asks for data such as the user’s name, date of birth, bank account details or login credentials.
How To Prevent Social Engineering Attacks
In this section, we’re going to look at three ways in which you can help prevent bad actors from stealing your data via social engineering attacks.
Secure Email Gateway
Secure Email Gateways (SEGs) is protection software that acts as a filter for in- and outbound emails. The SEG scans all emails using layered security systems and AI behavioral patterns to detect potentially harmful emails and then, depending upon the outcome, prevent the email from entering the inbox or quarantine and block it.
A SEG then, can be likened to a fancy kettle with a water filter, which blocks all of the unwanted impurities and leaves you with that nice clean water, ready for your coffee – it’s the same with your emails. However, like the water filter, some nasty threats may still sneak through even the toughest of SEGs, which is where extra security is needed!
To check out our recommendations for Secure Email Gateways, read our Buyers’ Guide.
Post-delivery protection (PDP) solutions are designed to address the weaknesses in SEG solutions when it comes to insider threats, in particular, phishing attacks. The main difference between the two systems is that SEGs do not scan emails once they are within the network, whereas PDP solutions do. Returning to the fancy kettle analogy, once the water has been through the filter once, it’s not filtered again, so if any harmful messages slip through, they can proceed to roam free. This is where the PDP comes in. Using AI behavioral monitoring, the PDP solution analyzes in and outbound internal emails, so if a malicious email slipped through the SEG, the PDP would automatically quarantine the email, or place a warning banner alerting users to a potential issue, in accordance with the admin policies.
See our guide to the Top 8 Post-Delivery Protection solutions here.
Cyber Awareness Training
When it comes to preventing a cyberattack, awareness is key; even if there are security measures in place, knowledge of the threats and how to handle them can be the difference between keeping your data and compromising it.
There are several training courses out there which offer your users an initiation in the art of defending against cyberattacks, by teaching them how to spot and stop them. As mentioned previously, social engineering attacks prey on human error, so awareness of the attacks from the user side is the best defense to stop them from wreaking havoc in your inbox.
For our picks of the best security awareness training solutions for businesses, click here.
And there you have it! You’re one step closer to preventing social engineering attacks than you were at the beginning of this article, and doesn’t it feel good?
However, the best way to stop these threats would be to implement a combination of all three prevention methods we’ve discussed. By implementing multiple solutions, you create more layers of defense for malicious messages to get through and therefore increase the chance that they can be stopped and nullified.
If you need help picking out the best solutions for your organization, check out our Buyers’ Guides to the best products that will help strengthen your defense in the fight against cyberattacks.