1. Introduction

In 2016, cybercriminals used a phishing email to obtain access to the email accounts of many Democratic National Committee employees, resulting in the publication of classified data harmful to Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president.

In this tutorial, we’ll talk about Social Engineering, a deception or scam orchestrated by sophisticated hackers to access sensitive information from third parties. In particular, we’ll introduce Social Engineering, walk through the most common attack techniques, and mention some basic precaution meters of Social Engineering manipulation.

2. What Is Social Engineering?

First of all, the phrase “Social Engineering” was introduced in 1941 by the science fiction author Robert Heinlein in an attempt to characterize the ability to use psychological techniques and tricks to deceive and influence the conduct of people.

The definition has been adapted and is widely used in cybersecurity in the process of defending confidential or private data from digital threads. Basically, the phrase refers to the act of psychologically manipulating individuals in order to gain access to their data and get an advantage of them. Furthermore, similar approaches are used to gain sensitive or classified information, or even significant sums of money, from business companies, individuals, or even whole states.

Therefore, the attackers don’t breach the security system of a computer or a server to obtain information but rely mainly on the trust and naivety shown to them by others.

3. Social Engineering Attack Techniques

In a social engineering assault, attackers might employ a variety of strategies. The most common techniques are the following.

3.1. Phishing

Phishing is one of the most common Social Engineering techniques. Usually, false emails or texts that seem to come from a genuine origin, such as a friend or a legitimate organization are used. Links to harmful websites or installed malware are usually contained in these texts. Typically, these messages need to be opened or clicked by the user in order to breach the security of the system.

These false texts often contain installed malware that can harm the individual’s computer system and gain their information

3.2. Baiting

Another very common strategy of Social Engineering is getting the people’s eye by providing a very appealing item or service at an extremely low price or free. These methods are usually employed as online advertisements or pop-up messages of giving away products. In order to get that special free gift these pop-up ads usually demand private details and personal information such as a debit card or telephone number. Basically, these techniques are quite noticeable and can easily be detected.

3.3. Pretexting

Pretexting assault is about the creation of a false identity in order to acquire personal data from individuals or companies. During this technique, the victim usually seems to trust the attacker as he pretends to be an authoritative person of a company or a customer service agent. Via email or phone call, the hackers ask for login credentials on email, social media, or bank accounts or persuade the unsuspicious individual to act according to their will as they appear as a specialist on a particular subject.

3.4. Quid Pro Quo

A similar technique with pretexting is quid pro quo. The attackers often pretend to be the representative of an organization that offers technical support or a desirable solution to a problem. It is an effective trick as the attackers, which usually seem legitimate, in order to resolve the hypothetical issue and assist the victim to ask for IP addresses, login credentials, and other personal information.

3.5. Scareware

Scareware is a method that aims to cause fear and haste in unsuspected individuals. Usually, on websites, pop-up texts appear that the computer is infected by harmful malware and offer solutions to save the situation and destroy the virus in exchange for money or private data. Thus, these scams are usually quite effective since they are based on the person’s ignorance and fear of losing their data or permanently damaging their computer.

4. Defending Against Social Engineering

Individuals and organizations have to adopt several actions to get protected from potential Social Engineering assaults.

First of all, one of the most essential defenses from attacks is precaution. It is important that individuals and staff of an organization should be aware and well-educated about the dangers involved in Social Engineering and also ways to detect and counter such frauds.

Furthermore, people should always take robust meters and confirm the identity of those they’re contacting and especially those who request personal sensitive information and their system access. Also, to prevent the compromise of their system individual should follow certain technical measures, like installing software, like firewalls for identifying spam and malware.

5. Conclusion

In this article, we walked through Social Engineering, an effective method used by cybercriminals to access the sensitive information of others. In particular, we focused on the different attack techniques that Social Engineering involves and mentioned certain ways to defend ourselves.

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