The Role of Social Engineering in Cyberattacks — And How To Fight Back

Man thinking at his desk with a computer and papers

The Role of Social Engineering in Cyberattacks — And How To Fight Back

Man thinking at his desk with a computer and papers

Almost half of all security breaches are inadvertently caused by employees, according to IBM’s Cyber Security Intelligence Index. With phishing continuing to rise and more industries at risk of cyber-attacks, how does social engineering factor in?

Types of Cyberattacks

There are four primary types of cyberattacks: ransomware, phishing, spearphishing, and spoofing. Three of these rely entirely on social engineering in order to succeed.

  • Phishing emails throwback to the messages from foreign nobility with too-good-to-be-true offers, but now contain risks from the traditional attempts to get personal information from its recipients to malicious links in disguise.
  • Spearphishing, as the name implies, are phishing attempts that are curated to their audience. These cybercriminals research their intended target, be it company, vendor, or individual, and use that knowledge to convince their victim to click a link, enter login information, or otherwise compromise their security. They use a number of methods to do this, sometimes including spoofing.
  • Spoofing is a malicious campaign that mimics the sending information of a trusted source, i.e. makes it look like their spearphishing email is a legitimate one because it’s coming from a real person’s email address (including people you may know personally whose accounts have been compromised). People are significantly more likely to open emails or click links from individuals or companies with whom they’re familiar, even when they shouldn’t.

All of these methods rely heavily on social engineering which means it depends on making the end-users believe something – that they need to click a link to track a package or open an attachment to view an invoice – that will then cause a security breach. And these hackers can be very convincing!

Prevent Social Engineered Attacks

So how can you protect your end users from this psychological manipulation?

By training them (and ongoing).

Unfortunately, spammers are constantly finding new ways to make it past even the best filters, so the odds that one will eventually make it through to your end users are pretty high. That’s not to say you shouldn’t bother with a strong firewall and spam filter, but you need to be sure those aren’t your only lines of defense. Prepare your employees so they can be security stewards for themselves and your organization.

Teach your end users what to look for in suspicious emails. Find out who your habitual clickers are by sending your own phishing campaigns to see who may need additional security training (Rocket IT offers free phishing security tests, so give us a call).

And if you need any help with your organization’s security or employee training, we’d be happy to provide you the peace of mind to sleep well at night.

About the Author – Jason Hand loves making music, serving his church and getting people excited about technology tools. He currently lives in Georgia with his wife and two adopted sons.  Jason is the Systems Administrator at Rocket IT.

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