All You Want to Know About Social Engineering Attacks


Cybersecurity threats are becoming increasingly sophisticated and challenging to detect. Social engineering attacks are one such threat, where attackers use the human propensity to social skills, to access sensitive information or systems. Businesses need to be aware of this and know how to deal with it.


This article will discuss the concept of social engineering, how it works, and the various types of social engineering attacks. We will also provide tips and best practices to help individuals and organizations protect themselves against social engineering attacks.

Read on to learn more about this critical topic.

What is Social Engineering?

Social engineering manipulates people into divulging sensitive information or performing specific actions they wouldn’t otherwise do. Essentially, it is a form of psychological manipulation that exploits human emotions to get access to confidential information.

Social engineering aims to exploit human tendencies such as curiosity, fear, greed, or trust to trick individuals into divulging confidential information.

Attackers often use social engineering techniques to target individuals who have access to sensitive data, such as system administrators, HR personnel, or financial officers. They may also target individuals outside the organization, such as customers or vendors, to gain access to their personal information.

Social engineering attacks can take different forms, including phishing scams, baiting, pretexting, or quid pro quo. Their data extraction may include passwords, financial data, or other sensitive data.

Social engineering attacks use various mediums like email, phone calls, social media, or in-person interaction.

How does Social Engineering Work?

In this threat vector, attackers first identify the target, either an individual or an organization, to gather information about them. They can do it through various means, such as scanning social media profiles, corporate websites, or job postings. Attackers may also use phishing techniques to collect data, such as by sending fake job offers or surveys.

With this information, they will craft a believable story or pretext that can help to gain the victim’s trust. They could pose as a trusted authority figure, such as a bank, government representative, or even a senior management person. This will help create a sense of urgency or fear to encourage the victim to act quickly.

The next step is to initiate contact with the victim through a medium most likely to elicit a response. This might involve sending a message or an email that appears to be from a trustworthy source, including a bank or an e-commerce site. Or it could be a phone call from a government agency or tech support.

After establishing contact, the attacker will use various techniques to manipulate the victim into divulging sensitive information or performing specific actions.

This might involve asking the victim to provide their login credentials or financial information. They might also ask them to click on some links that lead to sites that install malware or direct them to fake websites.

Social engineering attacks can take many forms, but they all rely on the same basic principles of human psychology. Attackers exploit the natural human tendency to trust and desire to help others. They can use this weakness to access sensitive data and cause significant harm.

To protect against social engineering attacks, one must be aware of the attackers’ tactics. Some activities can help them stay protected from social engineering attacks.

This might include using strong passwords and verifying the identity of callers and email senders. All users of digital channels need to be cautious about sharing personal information online.

Also Read: Social Engineering Attacks Impact on Businesses

Types of Social Engineering Attacks

Social engineering attacks aim to manipulate individuals into divulging sensitive information. They direct them to perform actions that could compromise their security or grant access to systems or networks.

There are several types of social engineering attacks, each with its unique approach and goals.

Phishing is the most common type of social engineering attack. Here, attackers send emails or messages disguised as legitimate entities to trick people into clicking on malicious links or downloading malware. These emails may originate from trusted sources like banks, social media platforms, or colleagues.

According to the report, Must-know phishing statistics for 2024 by Egress, here are some phishing statistics for 2024:

  • 94% of organizations will be victims of phishing attacks in 2024
  • 96% of victims will be negatively impacted by phishing attacks in 2024
  • 74% of organizations will have employees disciplined, dismissed, or leave voluntarily due to phishing attacks in 2024
  • 58% of organizations will have account takeover attacks in 2024

Spear phishing: Similar to phishing but more targeted, spear phishing attacks are directed at individuals or organizations. Attackers use personalized information to make their messages appear more legitimate, increasing the likelihood of success.

Pretexting involves creating a false scenario to trick someone into divulging sensitive information or performing an action. For example, an attacker may pose as a tech support representative and ask for login credentials or other personal information to fix a problem.

Baiting: This attack involves offering something of value, such as a free download or gift card, in exchange for personal information or actions. Attackers often use social media or online ads to lure victims into clicking on the bait.

Tailgating: Also known as “piggybacking,” tailgating involves physically following someone into a restricted area. Attackers use this technique to get access to secure locations or networks.

Quid pro quo: In this type, attackers offer a service or benefit in exchange for personal information or access to a system. For example, an attacker may provide a free software program trial in exchange for login credentials.

Scareware: This type of attack involves displaying fake warnings or alerts that appear to be from a legitimate source, such as antivirus software.

The fake warning could be about a malware infection, prompting users to download software or pay for a service to fix the problem.

Awareness of the different types of attacks and taking proactive measures for protection can help mitigate the risks of these attacks.

Some of the strategies could be -avoiding suspicious emails, limiting personal information shared online, and being cautious of unsolicited offers,

Live Examples of Social Engineering Attacks

One of the most famous social engineering attacks in recent years was the interference in the 2016 US presidential election. Here, Russian operatives used social media to spread false data and manipulate public opinion.

Another example is the 2020 Twitter hack, where hackers accessed high-profile accounts, including those of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates. They used these accounts to promote a Bitcoin scam.

In 2019, a social engineering attack on Capital One resulted in the theft of the personal information of over 100 million customers. The attacker posed as a legitimate customer and tricked a Capital One employee into disclosing login credentials.

Another recent example is the COVID-19-related phishing scams that preyed on people’s fears and uncertainties during the pandemic.

How to Detect Social Engineering Attacks?

Social engineering attacks are often done through email, phone calls, or in-person interactions. They can be tough to detect as they depend on human psychology rather than technical vulnerabilities.

However, several signs can help you identify a social engineering attack and protect yourself from its consequences.

One of the most common forms of social engineering attacks is phishing, which involves sending emails that appear to be from a trustful source, such as banks or social media platform. These emails often contain a sense of urgency, such as a request to update the account information or a warning that your account has been compromised.

To detect a phishing attack, you should check the sender’s email address and the message’s content for any inconsistencies or grammatical errors.

Unless you are sure they are safe, you should also avoid clicking on various links or downloading attachments.

Another major form of social engineering is pretexting. It involves creating a false scenario to access sensitive information. For example, a cybercriminal might pose as an IT technician and call you to ask for your login credentials.

To detect a pretexting attack, you should be skeptical of unsolicited requests for data, especially if they come from someone you don’t know. You should also verify the identity of the person requesting by asking for their official ID.

Finally, social engineering attacks can also take the form of baiting. This involves enticing you with a promise of something valuable in exchange for your information. For example, this could come in the form of a free trial or a gift card.

To detect a baiting attack, you should be cautious of any offers that seem too good to be true. This is especially if they require you to provide sensitive information. It would help if you also researched the company or organization making the offer to ensure it is legitimate.

Social engineering attacks can be very difficult to detect. But by staying vigilant of unsolicited requests for data, you can protect yourself from their consequences.

Always verify the identity of the person making the request, and be cautious of any offers that seem too good to be true. By staying informed and aware, you can stay one step ahead of online criminals and keep your information safe.

Minimizing The damage of social engineering attacks

Social engineering is a cyber-attack that depends on human interaction and psychological manipulation to gain access to sensitive information, systems, or networks. Unlike traditional cyber-attacks that focus on exploiting technical vulnerabilities, social engineering attacks target the weakest link in any security system: people.

Best Practices to Avoid Social Engineering Attacks

Here are some of the best practices to prevent social engineering attacks.

  1. Educate Employees

The most effective way to prevent social engineering attacks is to educate all employees about the risk. They need to be aware of the techniques and procedures used by attackers.

Employees should be trained to recognize phishing attacks, suspicious emails, and other risks. They should also know the importance of strong passwords, two-factor authentication, and additional security best practices.

  1. Use Multifactor Authentication

MFA is a security mechanism that needs users to provide two or more forms of identification to get access to a system or network. Using MFA can reduce the risk of social engineering attacks. Even if an attacker gets a user’s password, they will need a second authentication layer to gain data access.

  1. Implement Access Controls

Access controls are security mechanisms that restrict access to sensitive information, systems, or networks based on the user’s identity, role, and permissions.

Implementation of strong access controls can limit the exposure of sensitive data and reduce the risk of social engineering attacks.

  1. Keep Software Up to Date

Software vulnerabilities are among the most common ways attackers access systems and networks. Keeping all software up to date is essential to prevent social engineering attacks. This includes operating systems, applications, and security software.

  1. Monitor and Analyze Network Traffic

Analyzing and monitoring network traffic can help detect and prevent social engineering attacks. You can identify suspicious patterns by analyzing network traffic. Ai tools can analyze unusual login attempts, data transfers, and other activities that could indicate a social engineering attack.

Summing Up

In conclusion, social engineering attacks are a significant threat to individuals and organizations alike.

These attacks rely on exploiting human psychology to manipulate individuals into divulging sensitive data, performing actions that could compromise their security, or granting access to systems or networks. The attackers use a variety of tactics, such as phishing, pretexting, baiting, and quid pro quo, to achieve their goals.

To protect against various social engineering attacks, it is essential to be aware of the tactics that attackers use and to take steps to safeguard your personal and professional information.

Social engineering attacks are a growing threat that requires vigilance and awareness. By staying aware of the latest tactics and taking steps to protect yourself and your firm, you can avoid the risks of falling victim to these attacks.

Remember, the best defense against social engineering is to be skeptical, cautious, and informed.

Check Out The New ITsecuritywire Podcast. For more such updates follow us on Google News ITsecuritywire News.