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What is Social Engineering?

Attack Techniques & Prevention Strategies

Remember, People Love to Be Helpful

Over the last 20 years of conducting cybersecurity assessments and both conducting physical threat assessments and social engineering engagements as part of our methodology, two things have become very clear. First, without physical security, you can’t have data security. Secondly, people love to be helpful and show how much knowledge they have on any given subject.

Our social engineering techniques allowed us to exploit both of these elements and has allowed us to repeatedly circumvent most cybersecurity measures that might be in place to gain access across all industries, from critical infrastructure, healthcare, banking, and financial and higher education. Most of the techniques used in Mr. Robot Season one we have utilized on engagements.

Simply put, social engineering is a type of attack that relies on manipulating people to provide access to confidential information or resources. It has become an increasingly common form of attack as technology advances, which means it’s more important than ever for business leaders to understand how social engineering works and what techniques can be used to prevent it.

Let’s take a closer look at what social engineering is and how you can protect your business from it. It has become an increasingly common form of attack as technology advances, which means it’s more important than ever for business leaders to understand how social engineering works and what techniques can be used to prevent it. Let’s take a closer look at what social engineering is and how you can protect your business from it.


What is Social Engineering?

Social engineering is the art of manipulating people into divulging confidential information or performing specific actions that benefit the attacker in some way. It’s also known as “human hacking,” as attackers use psychological tactics to manipulate their victims into providing information or access that they wouldn’t usually give away.

Attackers can use various methods to accomplish their goals: phishing, vishing (voice phishing), pretexting (creating false identities or backgrounds), and even physical intrusion. Regardless of the method chosen, social engineering attacks rely on exploiting human trust and emotions in order to unlock confidential information or network resources using malicious software.

The goal of social engineering is to bypass security systems and gain access to confidential information or systems. Attackers can use a variety of strategies, including the ones mentioned above, as well as tailgating (following an employee into a restricted area), dumpster diving (looking for discarded physical documents that contain passwords or other sensitive information),


Social engineering is the art of what three things?

Social engineering is an art form that has been around since the dawn of humanity. As Kevin Mitnick once said, “Social Engineering is essentially the art of manipulating people, so they give up confidential information.” This practice relies heavily on psychological manipulation that takes advantage of our natural tendencies towards trust and authority.

Techniques used in social engineering can come in many forms, including phishing, tailgating, or pretexting. Phishing involves sending emails or other communications that are designed to manipulate users into compromising sensitive information, while tailgating means following someone into a secure area with their permission.

Pretexting involves assuming a false identity and using it to call people to acquire information from them. No matter the form, social engineering remains a potent tool for those looking to compromise data security systems.


Why Is Social Engineering So Dangerous?

One of the reasons social engineering is so dangerous is that it exploits human vulnerabilities rather than technical vulnerabilities. People are often more likely to fall for scams than computers are, and once attackers have gained access to confidential data, they can use it.

Social engineering is so dangerous because it relies heavily on manipulation and deception, as well as taking advantage of our natural trust in authority figures. Attackers can use persuasive tactics such as building a relationship with the target over time or making them feel a false sense of comfort or understanding.

This can be done by providing detailed information about the subject or by simply pretending to be a “friend” of the target. Attackers can also use techniques like phishing and pretexting to gain access to confidential information. For example, an attacker can send out an email with a malicious link that looks like it’s from a trusted source, or they can call someone and pretend to be a representative of the company they’re targeting.

It is also important to note that most social engineering attacks can be challenging to detect and prevent due to their reliance on human behavior rather than technical vulnerabilities. Since attackers are often relying on manipulating people into providing confidential information, there may not be any tell-tale signs of an attack until it’s too late. Remember, people love to be helpful.


What are the most effective social engineering techniques?

There are three main areas where these attacks are successful, namely through social media, physical access, and human interaction. Social media is becoming an increasingly influential tool for attackers, allowing for real-time access to profile data that may be used for malicious purposes.

Physical access can be gained through various means, such as lock picking, breaking and entering, or intimidation. Finally, direct communication provides attackers with the opportunity to acquire vital login credentials directly from a user.

In real-world examples, hackers have been known to use phishing tactics via email or voice mail in order to entice recipients into handing over confidential information. Whilst this unlawful activity can seem challenging to spot, organizations must take steps to ensure that their personnel is constantly alert and cautious when dealing with potential threats online.


Examples of Social Engineering Attacks

Social engineering attacks can take many forms, but some examples include the following:

Sending malicious links via email with the intention of stealing personal data from the recipient

Sending malicious links via email is one of the social engineering tactics used in phishing attacks. As an attacker, you can target a specific employee within an organization and entice them to open the link by studying their interests and behaviors. When such a link is clicked, it will install malicious keystroke logging software on the recipient’s computer that can capture their usernames, passwords, and any other sensitive information. Such stolen data can later be used to reveal confidential information or even access the infrastructure of an enterprise network. Therefore, extra precautions should be taken when dealing with emails from unknown sources in order to protect yourself from being targeted.

Impersonating a customer service representative in order to obtain confidential information from unsuspecting victims

Pretexting, or pretending to be someone else in order to trick users into giving up confidential information, is an increasing threat to our online information security. Impersonating a customer service representative is an example of this type of attack, as criminals feign the necessity for log-in credentials or any other sensitive data that victims may enter in exchange for technical support.

These rogue security software tricks work best when combined with human interaction and psychology, as unsuspecting victims are much easier to convince over the phone than by text-based interaction alone. Despite advanced security measures on many platforms, these fear-based tactics still remain in the arsenal of malicious actors looking to capitalize on user confusion and ill-preparedness.

Creating fake or malicious websites or profiles that appear legitimate in order to trick users into providing sensitive information

Human interaction is a security risk that should never be overlooked; for example, spear phishing attacks can be used by attackers to create fake websites or profiles that appear legitimate in order to trick users into providing sensitive information.

Luckily, there are ways to counteract this type of activity from occurring; multi-factor authentication provides an added layer of security when signing into websites or services. When combined with other techniques, such as DNS rate limiting and URL validation, organizations can take the necessary steps to help protect their networks from malicious entities attempting to exploit employees. Additionally, employee training is a valuable resource to help create an understanding of what to look for in suspicious emails or websites. Having the ability to recognize signs that something may not be legitimate can save organizations from potential data breaches or other cyber threats.

Overall, creating fake or malicious websites and profiles should not be taken lightly; it can cause severe repercussions if not appropriately addressed. Organizations should strive to deploy the necessary security measures to help protect their networks from these types of threats while also educating employees on what to look out for in potentially malicious emails or websites. With adequate security protocols and employee training, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of potential data breaches or cyber-attacks.  ​

Creating fake surveys or quizzes that require users to enter personal data in order for them to receive a reward

Pretexting is a form of social engineering where attackers create seemingly legitimate surveys or quizzes and target unsuspecting employees. Pretexting for financial information such as credit card or bank account numbers is a common practice called voice phishing or Vishing.

Pretexters rely on the lures within the survey to convince their victims to enter their personal data in exchange for a reward. Still, in reality, this data is used maliciously by the attacker.

Pretexters are often sophisticated and will craft an engaging survey that looks convincing and can draw in even the most informed employee; enterprises need to be wary of these tactics, educate their employees on how to identify these suspicious activities, and implement a secure authentication solution that helps prevent fraudsters from stealing sensitive information.

Posing as an IT professional in order to compromise systems and networks

Posing as an IT professional is a popular tactic used by criminals to exploit technical vulnerabilities and execute a social engineering scheme. This kind of security threat is often challenging to detect because the perpetrators rely on credibility within the organization they are targeting. They may appear legitimate by using email accounts, logos, and other methods of impersonating an IT technician. If successful, these individuals have access to internal operations and networks that are at high risk of malicious attacks. To protect against this type of attack, organizations must stay alert to any suspicious requests or changes made within their networks.

This type of attack also relies on creativity and knowledge of the target; timing is a force of manipulation that relies heavily on creativity and persuasion. It involves using specific tactics, such as a spear phishing attack, in order to gain information or access confidential information and gather sensitive information and funds.

Techniques may include arranging meetings, posing as another individual, or pretending to need help. Through these strategies, deceivers can capitalize on the trustworthiness of their victims while minimizing suspicion and gaining insight into existing security systems. Social engineering attackers usually strive to appear harmless in order to build trust with their targets while they bleed out confidential information with each conversation they initiate.

How To Prevent Social Engineering Attacks

Fortunately, there are measures business leaders can take to protect their organizations from social engineering attacks. The first step is education; ensure everyone in your organization understands the risks associated with these types of attacks and knows how to identify them if they encounter one. You should also implement policies and procedures that require all employees to regularly change their passwords and use two-factor authentication when accessing sensitive systems or data.

Additionally, invest in security software that can detect suspicious activity, such as phishing attempts, so they can be blocked before they reach your employees’ inboxes. And finally, ensure that your organization has processes in place for quickly responding to any suspected incidents and investigating any potential breaches immediately so you can minimize the damage caused by any successful social engineering attacks.

Importance of Cybersecurity Awareness Training To prevent Social Engineering attacks.

Cybersecurity Awareness Training is crucial for new and experienced employees to understand social engineering techniques and the impact of these attacks. Social Engineers use tactics like social media, email, text messages, and other communication channels to persuade people to give away valuable information or perform actions that would grant them access to company data.

Through Cybersecurity Awareness Training, employees can be equipped with the knowledge required to detect social engineering attempts and recognize how to stop them from being successful in compromising an organization’s security measures. Additionally, real-world scenarios should be discussed during Cybersecurity Awareness Training sessions so employees have better learning opportunities that they can easily relate to. Doing this allows companies to stay safe against social engineering attacks and keeps their digital assets secure.

Research Shows 91% of Breaches Start with a phishing attack.

Over the past few years, cyberattacks have evolved continuously, with phishing emails becoming one of the most popular methods of attack. Data breaches caused by phishing attacks occur when unsuspecting victims click on malicious links that can steal confidential information or even introduce malware into their systems.

According to recent data, 91% of all data breaches start with a phishing attack, meaning these attacks are responsible for real-world consequences such as financial losses or delays in services. In order to reduce the risk of data being stolen via a phishing attack, it is crucial for companies and employees to remain vigilant in recognizing suspicious emails and avoid clicking on links from untrusted sources. Without adequate awareness and measures in place, organizations will continue to struggle against this type of threat.

What can the FBI and Local Law Enforcement Do if your business is a victim of an attack?

Overwhelmingly, businesses are subject to a variety of security threats that can cause immense financial loss. Cyberattacks, data breaches, and business email compromise are among the most common threats that have victims overwhelmed with no clue where to start.

It can be difficult for small business to protect their systems as they may lack the resources necessary to do so effectively. Fortunately, local law enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) can provide assistance through investigations when a company is victimized by cybercrime.

They will assess the crime scene, analyze the evidence collected, and develop strategies that can lead to the successful prosecution of the perpetrators of such attacks. As a result, businesses will now turn to law enforcement for advice and help in avoiding similar situations in the future.


In conclusion, social engineering threats are a growing threat to organizations of all sizes. While technical vulnerabilities can be addressed through the implementation of security protocols and measures, social engineering attackers exploit human vulnerabilities, which can be much harder to detect and prevent.

Business leaders can help protect their organizations from these types of attacks by educating employees on the risks associated with them and implementing policies that require regular password changes and two-factor authentication.

By staying informed on the latest tactics used by attackers, organizations can stay one step ahead and ensure their data is secure. Additionally, it is essential for businesses to provide ongoing training and awareness programs so that employees remain vigilant against attempts to manipulate or deceive them. Doing so will help ensure their organization remains compliant with regulatory standards and protected from financial losses due to breaches or other malicious activities caused by social engineering attacks.