9 Steps to Defending Against Social Engineering Attacks
Social engineering is a type of cybersecurity attack that relies on human interaction to trick users into breaking normal security procedures in order to gain access to systems, data, or personal information. Attackers use a variety of techniques to manipulate or deceive people into divulging sensitive information or performing actions that they otherwise would not do. Some common tactics used in social engineering attacks include phishing, pretexting, baiting, quid pro quo, and scareware.
Social engineering attacks are common due to automation and electronic communications such as email and SMS. Victims of attacks cover all age groups and even reach corporate executives and government officials. In July 2020, a group of hackers launched a phishing campaign targeting employees of the U.S. Department of State. The hackers sent emails to the employees, purporting to be from the agency’s human resources department, and requesting that they update their personal information. The emails contained a link to a fake website, which was designed to look like the real State Department website. When employees entered their personal information on the fake website, the hackers were able to steal it.
This attack was successful because the hackers were able to manipulate the trust of the employees, who believed that the emails and website were legitimate. It demonstrates the importance of verifying the identity of the person or organization contacting you before providing any personal information, and being cautious when responding to requests for information, especially if they come from unexpected sources.
One of the main risks of social engineering is that it can be very difficult to defend against since it relies on human psychology and social interactions rather than on technical vulnerabilities. People are often the weakest link in an organization’s security, and attackers can exploit this by preying on their trust, curiosity, or desire to help others. It is also difficult to detect social engineering attacks since they often involve seemingly legitimate interactions with people. This means that organizations need to be proactive in educating their employees about the risks of social engineering and how to recognize and avoid them.
There are a few general steps that you can take to help defend against social engineering attacks:
- Be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls, emails, or messages, especially if they contain links or attachments.
- Verify the identity of the person contacting you before providing any personal information.
- Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown sources.
- Do not provide personal information, such as passwords, account numbers, or social security numbers, in response to a request from someone you do not know.
- Use strong and unique passwords for all of your accounts, and enable multi-factor authentication whenever possible.
- Keep your software and operating system up to date with the latest security patches.
- Educate yourself about common social engineering tactics, such as phishing and pretexting, so that you can better recognize them when they occur.
- Be wary of any unusual or unexpected requests, especially if they involve divulging sensitive information or performing actions that you would not normally do.
- Pay attention to your surroundings and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
By following these nine steps, you can significantly reduce your risk of your organization falling victim to a social engineering attack.