A crucial part of a strong defense is educating users against social engineering attacks, especially as digital applications become more prevalent.
Even in the field of cybersecurity, the concept of social engineering is not new. Phishing scams alone have been around for decades, and attackers continue to develop innovative ways to trick victims into downloading files, clicking links, or giving personal information. Attacks like Business Email Compromise (BEC) built on this idea by allowing the attacker to access a valid email account and pretend to be the account owner.
Email isn’t the only efficient tool used by cybercriminals to conduct social engineering attacks, though. A variety of digital applications, including VPNs, communication tools, cloud services, and financial services, are used by modern enterprises. Additionally, because these applications are all interlinked, an attacker who manages to infiltrate one can also compromise the others. Organizations cannot afford to focus solely on BEC and phishing threats, especially with an increase in application compromise.
Oversight is a challenge because security and IT departments frequently are unaware of, let alone approve of, these applications.
Another problem is authentication. Anyone who utilizes dozens of different apps to perform their tasks may find it challenging to create and remember unique login and password combinations. One alternative is to use a password manager, but IT may find it challenging to enforce this. Instead, many businesses use Single Sign-On (SSO) solutions to simplify their authentication procedures. These enable employees to log into a single, approved account to access all associated applications and services. However, SSO services are high-value targets for threat actors because they enable users to quickly access hundreds of business apps. Of course, SSO providers have their own security measures and capabilities, but human error is still a challenging issue to address.
Evolution of Social Engineering
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a feature that is included in many applications, including most SSO implementations. Attackers will find it more challenging, but not impossible, to compromise an account as a result. MFA can irritate users since they may need to use it to sign into their accounts several times each day, which can cause frustration and, occasionally, negligence.
Even though they are aware that the account is MFA-protected, an attacker who already has a set of user credentials might attempt to log in more than once. Attackers increase the victim’s alert fatigue by repeatedly requesting MFA authentication on their phone. When faced with a barrage of requests, many victims either assume IT is trying to access the account or just click “accept” to silence the notifications. People are easily irritated, and attackers are taking advantage of this.
This makes application compromise easier than BEC in many respects. Threat actors engaging in application compromise simply need to harass their targets into making a bad decision. Additionally, attackers have the potential to access hundreds of different apps, such as payroll and HR services, by focusing on identity and SSO providers.
It’s crucial to have in-network detection solutions that can spot suspicious behavior, even coming from an authorized user account, because this kind of activity can easily go undetected. Businesses should use Fast Identity Online (FIDO) security keys when implementing MFA. The next best option, if FIDO-only factors for MFA are unfeasible, is to switch off push notifications in favor of SMS, email, and time-based one-time passwords and then set up identity provider policies or MFA to restrict access to managed devices as an additional layer of security.
Application Compromise Prevention
Successful application compromise, however less well-known than BEC, gives attackers access to a variety of personal and business applications connected to the account. For modern attackers, social engineering is still a high-return strategy that has evolved along with the security tools meant to counter it.
Today, companies must train their workforce on how to spot potential scams and where to file a complaint. With companies utilizing more applications each year, employees collaborate with their security teams to secure systems against increasingly devious cybercriminals.