Kevin Mitnick, one of the most popular hackers in the world, wrote a book titled, “The Art of Deception.” Published in 2001, it is still considered one of the best books on social engineering. In his book, the author shares stories and examples to prove how social engineering can be combined with hacking to create a deadly combination.
Since then, we have seen an influx of social engineering attacks targeting businesses. Businesses have beefed up their cybersecurity by investing in the best cybersecurity systems, but hackers have also become smarter. Cyber attackers are now using social engineering techniques to fool the gatekeepers protecting your critical business infrastructure. That is why it is important to know about the common social engineering threats that can target your business so you can protect your business from them.
In this article, you will learn about seven common types of social engineering attacks that your business should protect against.
7 Social Engineering Attacks Your Business Should Be Aware Of
- Spear Phishing
- Whaling Attack
- Watering Hole
- Reverse Social Engineering
Phishing is by far the most common type of social engineering attack. Cybercriminals will send you a message through email, social media, instant messaging app or SMS and ask for sensitive information such as name, addresses, social security number or credit card details.
Here are some of the common characteristics of phishing attacks you should keep an eye on:
- Phishing messages have deceptive subject lines
- Phishing messages are designed to grab the attention and stimulate curiosity
- Phishing messages creates a sense of urgency, which forces the user to act quickly
- Attackers might use a short URL or embed link to redirect the victim to malicious websites
If you find any of these characteristics in a message, you should immediately report to the concerned department.
2. Spear Phishing
In a spear-phishing attack, cybercriminals send personalized emails where they represent themselves as a friend, bank or any other financial institution. The main goal of this activity is to trick users into sharing their personal and financial information with the hacker.
Invest in cybersecurity training and increase employee awareness. Educate and train your employees about social engineering prevention such as spear phishing so they can easily identify, report and don’t fall victim to these attacks. Encrypt your sensitive information and install the latest security patches.
3. Whaling Attack
Another sophisticated social engineering technique hackers use is whaling. This type of social engineering attack usually targets top management and executives of businesses and government agencies. Just like spear phishing, a personalized email is sent to a top-level executive seemingly from a legitimate higher authority. The message is tailor-made for top management and highlight a company-wide problem or share some highly confidential information.
4. Watering Hole
A watering hole attack tries to inject malicious code into a web page that the target frequently visits. As soon as the person visits that web page, a trojan is installed on his or her computer. In most cases, watering hole attacks are state-sponsored and are launched for cyber espionage. Hackers compromise a website months before launching watering hole attack and study the habits of visitors and closely monitor the website logs to see if they can find a victim of their interest. Cyber attackers usually use zero-day exploits to enhance the effectiveness of their watering hole attacks.
In baiting, hackers offer a lucrative deal, a product or good to deceive their victim. They will ask you to perform a financial transaction and purchase that product from them so they can get access to your sensitive financial information. What’s worse, baiting attacks can be executed offline and online.
For example, a hacker might deliver a malicious code or malicious file to your system by disguising it as a software update for a popular software you might be using. Offline baiting can easily be executed by spreading infected USB tokens at a place where employees usually come. It could be a parking lot or cafeteria. When these malicious USB tokens are picked up and plugged in your work computer by employees, it will compromise your system and give complete access to hackers.
Also known as piggybacking, tailgating involves attackers trying to intrude into restricted areas of your organization which lacks proper authentication. It could be a smoke break area, delivery areas, main doorways or parking lot. In most cases, attackers come in the guise of delivery boy or caretaker and wait outside the building.
As soon as an employee enters the building after authentication, the delivery boy tries to enter your premises telling you that they must deliver a parcel. These types of attacks are very common in small and mid-size businesses because they lack authentication and authorization controls which allow anyone to enter their premises.
7. Reverse Social Engineering
Instead of tricking users into sharing their sensitive information with attackers, reverse social engineering scenarios flip the script. In reverse engineering attacks, hackers make users believe that they need their services. Hackers might pretend to be a technical support agent and share their contact information so that you can contact them for troubleshooting or solving their technical problems.
To speed up the process, the hackers might even delete a file or cause the problem themselves. The purpose of this type of attack is usually to steal your information or lay a solid foundation for launching future attacks. Hackers usually take advantage of blind trust businesses have on technical support representatives from service providers and steal a lot of your critical data in the process.
How do you protect your business from social engineering attacks? Let us know in the comments section below.