Social engineering is a tactic used by scammers and hackers in which a victim is persuaded to reveal confidential information, such as passwords or bank information. There are many types of social engineering, and we are going to help you to efficiently recognize them and teach you how to protect yourself.
It takes a lot less time to convince someone to give up information than to try and hack it. You might not even realize that you are being manipulated because the attack is made to seem very ordinary. It could be an email from a friend asking a random detail about your life, but unbeknownst to you, their email has been spoofed.
After all, how would you react if you suddenly receive an email from your friend saying that he or she has been robbed, is stuck in a foreign country, and needs money urgently? Obviously, worried about your friend, you will send the amount and you won’t get your money back.
It would probably raise your suspicions if someone asked for your password straight out, but your mother's maiden name or the street where you grew up could be used to set a new password. Instead of waiting for something to happen, it’s best to stay informed about the possible social engineering tactics and the ways that you can protect yourself.
Better be safe than sorry.
Types Of Social Engineering
Phishing is a form of social engineering where the attacker intends to steal data from the victim, such as credit card numbers, passwords, etc. Usually, this technique includes carefully written emails where the attacker can include a malicious link and content that convinces you to click on the link. Many times it will appear as if it’s from a trusted source.
There are many types of phishing attacks, some of them mentioned below separately.
Clone phishing is when you receive a legitimate email with an attachment, and then you receive another fake one that has all the same information but usually with a malicious link instead. The fake sender might, for example, claim that it’s an updated version of the previous mail you received to trick you into clicking on the link.
Whaling is similar to spear phishing, only the targets are high-profile targets like company CEOs. In a whaling attack, the content of the email could be, for example, a customer complaint and can easily trick anyone.
Vishing is also a type of phishing, just in this case the attacker uses a more old-fashioned approach to trick their victims – a phone call. There are many ways to do this, and the most ‘real’ one is when the caller on the other line is a real person. They can be presenting themselves as a representative from your bank and will ask confidential information that can lead to the attacker stealing all of your money.
Be careful when you answer calls from a stranger. Always ask questions and pay attention to the way the other person is talking to you. There are always little warning that should not be ignored.
Catfishing, you’ve probably heard of this term before because is surprisingly common nowadays. Catfishing occurs when people create fake social media profiles and pretend to be someone else. They use fake information, names, and photos. Sometimes all of this is stolen from another, actual person.
Although in most cases catfishing is used as a way to cyberbully someone or to seek attention, it can also be a way for a person to take information from you. As with every other social engineering attack, some people go to great extents to pull it off.
As the name suggests baiting is when a social engineer tricks you into doing something by setting bait for you, like leaving a USB stick on the ground for someone to pick up and use. Despite being an older technique, it still works.
For a more ‘modern’ way of baiting, the attacker can lead you to a false website, where instead of downloading the file you need, you will be infecting your device with a virus. Once this has happened, there is a big chance for the attacker to get a hold of your device and all the information stored there.
Quid Pro Quo
You probably heard the story of the Nigerian prince and the money he is giving away. Or the story of a passed away relative that you’ve never heard of leaving you a large amount of money that is yours to take, but first, you need to pay a ‘small fee’.
These scams are what we call quid pro quo. It’s the Latin term for ‘something for something’ or ‘favor for a favor’.
Let’s be real, chances are you won't fall for the Nigerian prince ever ... again. This was something that could have been pulled off years ago in the early days of the internet. However, don’t think that these scams are gone.
Have you ever had your profile hacked? Or maybe a friend of yours has, and you opened a suspicious link they sent you? It can happen to anyone.
Contact spamming is also a form of social engineering, and it goes hand in hand with hacking, whether it’s a social media profile or an email account. Once you or your contacts click on the malicious link, they will be infected by malware that then tries to spread to other contacts.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
There are many different types of social engineering and the ones above are the most commonly used among criminals. The first step in protecting yourself was to inform yourself of the possible threats. Now, let’s see what else you can do to improve your safety.
1. Always double-check everything
When you receive an email, an unusual phone call or someone sends you something that you were not expecting, make sure you double check the sender’s information. Ask questions, be curious, look out for grammatical and spelling errors as they can be a major red alert, and above all be precautious with these things.
2. Don’t give away passwords, confidential information or access to your device
No matter what is asked of you, do not reveal your credit card information, nor your passwords or usernames. If it’s your bank calling you or trying to contact you, go there personally instead of revealing something that might put you in danger. If it’s your friend asking for money through an email, make sure that it’s really the same person behind the email by calling.
Just never give your information that can make you a potential victim.
3. Use the right software
Sometimes no matter how careful you are, you can’t prevent some things from happening, but good software just might. Make sure your computer or phone has a good antivirus installed, a malware detector, spam filter, and ad-blockers on your browser. For additional protection, you can always install a VPN. It’s an excellent software that will keep you protected and anonymous, and at the same time will allow you to browse the internet with no restrictions whatsoever.
4. Don’t share everything on the internet
Finally, it’s important to realize that you really don’t have to share everything on the internet, especially not with strangers. Social media has made cyber-attacks and social engineering easier than ever before. All a person has to do is check your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram profile to gain what would have been confidential information before social media. Unless you want to deal with an attack on your privacy, make sure you don’t post anything too personal on the internet, such as your location, phone number, etc.
If you have any additional questions, make sure you post a comment in the section below, and we get back to you as soon as possible.