Social engineering is when people try to trick others into giving them sensitive information or doing things that might not be a good idea. Hackers and cybercriminals often use social engineering to get into systems or steal data.
Social Engineering attacks prey on human emotions and trust. This makes them highly effective in tricking people into giving sensitive information.
Social engineering is dangerous because it is used to trick people into giving away sensitive information. For example, a hacker might send an email that looks like it’s from a friend but is actually a trick to get you to click on a link. This link will then install malware on your computer.
Or someone might call you pretending to be from a bank and try to get you to give them your account password. If you give away this kind of information, it can be used to steal your money or even your identity. This means that someone could use your name and personal information to do things that could get you in trouble or cause other problems.
There are many different types of social engineering attacks. Let’s look at some of the common ones.
What is Phishing?
Phishing is a type of social engineering attack in which a hacker or cybercriminal uses fake emails or websites to trick people into giving away sensitive information. The goal of a phishing attack is to steal this information, which can then be used to access accounts, make fraudulent purchases, or steal someone’s identity.
One common type of phishing attack is called “spoofing”. Here, the attacker creates an email or website that looks legitimate but is actually fake. For example, the attacker might send an email that looks like it’s from your bank, asking you to log in to your account to update your information. The email might include a link that takes you to a fake website that looks just like your bank’s website. If you enter your login information on this fake website, the attacker can use it to access your account and steal your money.
Another type of phishing attack is called “spear phishing”. In this attack, the attacker targets a specific individual or organization. The attacker might gather information about the victim through social media or other online sources. They will then use this information to create a personalized email or website that is more likely to trick the victim into giving away sensitive information.
What is PreTexting?
Pretexting is a type of social engineering attack in which an attacker creates a fake story or scenario to trick a victim. The goal of pretexting is to manipulate the victim into believing that the attacker is someone trustworthy, such as a colleague or a friend.
One common example of pretexting is “imposter scams,”. Here the attacker poses as a representative of a company or government agency and asks the victim to provide sensitive information or take action.
For example, the attacker might call the victim and claim to be from a bank, saying that there has been suspicious activity on the victim’s account. They will then ask for the victim’s account number or login credentials. You should always be aware of the signs of pretexting, such as unexpected requests for sensitive information or requests that seem unusual.
What is Baiting?
Baiting is a type of social engineering attack in which an attacker tempts a victim with something desirable. The goal of baiting is to manipulate the victim into taking action that will benefit the attacker.
One common example of baiting is offering a free trial or sample of a product or service in exchange for personal information. For example, an attacker might create a website that offers a free trial of a new video game. This will need the user to provide their email address and other personal information to access the trial. The attacker can then use this information to send phishing emails or engage in other types of cybercrime.
Another example of baiting is offering access to a restricted or exclusive piece of content. The victim might be tempted to provide sensitive information or take action in order to access the content, but the attacker can then use this information or access to further exploit the victim.
You would have heard about the Nigerian prince scam asking for a couple of thousand dollars in exchange for a fortune. This is an example of a baiting attack.
Social Engineering Toolkit (SET)
If you want to ethically perform a social engineering attack on your client or their business, you can use the Social Engineering Toolkit or (SET). SET is a collection of tools and resources that you can use to execute and test social engineering attacks. Using SET, you can
- send simulated phishing emails.
- use pretexting scripts to create fake but believable stories to trick people.
- Bait users with fake promotions or offers to lure them into giving sensitive information.
SET is a great tool for internal auditing, but it is also used by malicious attackers. If you do a pen test for a client, always include social engineering auditing as well. People are the weakest link in every security framework.
Defense against Social Engineering attacks
So how do we defend against Social Engineering attacks? Here are a few things you can do:
- Always be skeptical of random requests for sensitive information, whether it is via email, phone, or in person.
- Verify the identity of the site or individual before sharing any information.
- Use strong and unique passwords for all accounts.
- Enable two-factor authentication whenever possible.
- Educate yourself and others on the tactics used in social engineering attacks.
Social engineering is when people try to trick others into giving them sensitive information or doing things that might not be a good idea. Hackers use different tactics to do this, such as phishing (sending fake emails or creating fake websites to steal information), baiting (offering something desirable to get information), and pretexting (pretending to be someone else to get someone to do something). It’s always important to be careful and not give out personal information or click on links from people you don’t know.
If you want to master the concept of social engineering, I would recommend reading “Social Engineering: The Science of Human Hacking” by Christopher Hadnagy. It’s an amazing book and I loved every bit of it.