Cybercrime Protection: all you Need to Know about Social Engineering Threats
Social engineering attacks can have serious consequences for companies of all sizes. Left unprotected, these types of attacks can result in data breaches, financial losses and compromised security.
For a start, consider a social engineering threat as an attempt by cybercriminals to ‘hack the people’ of your company, instead of its network or particular technologies. This cybercrime approach essentially relies on various psychological strategies that aim to trick employees into actions they wouldn’t normally perform, or into sharing specific information they would never normally share.
According to IBM’s 2023 Cost of a Data Breach report, it takes an average of 298 days in order to identify and contain a data breach initially caused by social engineering. In addition, the average cost of a social engineering threat stands at $4.55 million.
In this article, Bocasay, our offshore IT agency based in Vietnam, begins with essential terminology and continues with an overview of steps you can take in order to protect your organization from the ever-increasing risk of social engineering threats.
What is a Social Engineering Attack?
A social engineering attack is a form of cyberattack or manipulation in which an attacker uses psychological manipulation and deception techniques in order to trick individuals or organizations into sharing confidential information, performing certain actions, or making decisions that are against their best interests. Social engineering attacks exploit human psychology and trust rather than exploiting technical vulnerabilities in computer systems.
Common Types of Social Engineering Attacks
In phishing attacks, attackers send fraudulent emails or messages that appear to be from a legitimate source, such as a trusted organization or friend. These messages typically contain links or attachments that, when clicked or opened, lead to malicious websites or downloads.
Pretexting involves the attacker creating a fabricated scenario or pretext to obtain sensitive information. This might include pretending to be a trusted authority figure, such as a bank representative or IT support technician, to convince the victim to provide personal or financial information.
Baiting attacks involve enticing victims with something appealing, such as free software downloads, in exchange for their login credentials or other valuable information. This often involves the victim unknowingly downloading malicious software.
In a tailgating attack, an attacker gains physical access to a restricted area by following an authorized person through a secured door or gate, taking advantage of their trust or lack of attention.
Impersonation attacks involve pretending to be someone else, either in person, over the phone, or via electronic communication, to manipulate individuals or organizations into taking specific actions or revealing information.
Spear phishing is essentially a more targeted form of phishing. It involves attackers customizing their messages in order to target specific individuals or organizations, often using personal information that make the messages and overall communication appear more convincing.
Vishing, short for “voice phishing,” is a form of social engineering that involves using phone calls to manipulate individuals into revealing sensitive information, such as personal account numbers or passwords.
How to Protect your Company from Social Engineering Threats?
Protecting your company from social engineering threats requires a combination of cybersecurity measures, employee training and a culture of security awareness. Here are some steps you can take to enhance your company’s defenses against social engineering attacks:
Employee Training and Awareness:
◎ Conduct regular security awareness training for all employees. Teach them about the various social engineering tactics used by attackers, such as phishing, pretexting and impersonation.
◎ Train employees to recognize suspicious emails, phone calls and in-person interactions. Encourage them to verify the identity of anyone requesting sensitive information or actions.
◎ Promote a culture of security awareness where employees feel comfortable reporting any suspicious activity or security concerns.
Strong Password Policies:
◎ Companies should implement and enforce strong password policies. Encourage your employees to use complex, unique passwords for their accounts, as well as to change them regularly.
◎ Consider implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) in order to add an extra layer of security to login processes.
◎ Deploy email filtering and anti-phishing solutions in order to detect and block malicious emails before they even reach your employees’ inboxes.
◎ Educate employees about the dangers of clicking on links or downloading attachments arriving from unknown or suspicious sources.
◎ Encourage the use of encrypted communication channels, especially for sensitive information and transactions.
◎ Always verify the identity of individuals participating in critical communication, especially if it involves financial transactions or sharing sensitive data.
◎ Control physical access to your company’s premises with secure access controls, such as keycards, biometrics, and visitor logs.
◎ Train employees to be vigilant about tailgating and unauthorized individuals entering restricted areas.
Incident Response Plan:
◎ Develop and regularly update an incident response plan that outlines the exact steps to take in the event of a social engineering attack. Ensure that employees know how to report incidents and who to contact.
Social Media and Online Presence:
◎ Be cautious about sharing sensitive information about your company, employees and business operations on social media or public websites.
◎ Train employees to limit the information they share online, especially regarding their specific job roles and responsibilities.
Vendor and Third-Party Risk Management:
◎ Always assess the security practices of your third-party vendors and partners. Ensure that they have strong security measures in place in order to prevent social engineering attacks that could impact your company.
◎ Implement continuous monitoring of network traffic and user behavior in order to enable your company to detect unusual or suspicious activities promptly.
The Bottom Line
Protection against social engineering attacks requires individuals and organizations to be meticulously cautious when sharing sensitive information, to verify the identity of individuals or entities requesting information, as well as to educate themselves and their employees about the various social engineering tactics commonly used by attackers.
It is also crucial to remember that social engineering threats evolve over time. Always maintain a proactive and adaptable approach to your organization’s security. Last but not least, don’t forget to regularly review and update your security policies and practices to stay ahead of any potential threats.
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