In the security field, the term “social engineering” refers to strategically employing deceptive activities to trick people into revealing sensitive information. This data may be as insignificant as social media login credentials or as crucial as a social security number. These attacks take advantage of most people’s generally trustworthy nature, making them especially dangerous. Do you know how to identify social engineering tactics when someone uses them on you?
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Types of Social Engineering Attacks
Most common online scams involve social engineering at some level. While some of these tactics may seem familiar to anyone knowledgeable about security, variants on these strategies still exist and are equally dangerous. Several often-used social engineering attacks include:
In a pretexting attack, scammers present a falsified scenario to trick the victim into handing over sensitive information, particularly credit card information. These scenarios are designed to build trust with the victim and encourage an emotional response. These types of attackers frequently pose as friends or loved ones to gain your trust. A few common pretexting scenarios include:
- Claiming to be a family member calling from jail and asking for bail money
- Posing as a friend or family member in an emergency situation
- Posing as a love interest online while continually requesting money (catfishing scenarios often include this)
Because these scammers pose as your family members, the best solution to this problem is to contact your family directly and see if they are genuinely in trouble. In nearly every scenario, you’ll see that everything is fine.
Baiting attacks offer something to the victim in exchange for login credentials, bank account information, or other private data. Maybe a website offers free movies or music downloads if you log in with your social media account. Sometimes a popup will claim you won a bunch of money or some impressive technology and just need to enter your information to claim it. This dangles the promise of something enticing in front of the victim, providing temptation to hand over the info. It goes without saying that these promised rewards don’t exist. Never hand over your information in exchange for a reward you’ll never see!
At this point, phishing needs no introduction. Phishing emails or text messages are among the most common scams encountered today. This method of attack can take many forms. Reported examples include trying to convince the victim they have an outstanding bill, offering money or rewards in exchange for info, blackmailing the victim into sending money, or requesting “confirmation” of certain information. Any one of these attacks is quite dangerous and can easily introduce malware onto your devices or drain your bank account. Businesses are especially at risk since hackers can also access any clients’ payment information. Make sure you know how to identify a phishing message and how to handle it.
Pro Tip: Most email providers include a “Report Phishing” button. If you receive a phishing email, use this button to report the sender and help reduce their attacks.
Protecting Your Confidential Information
The first and best defense against social engineering attacks is an awareness of what they look like. If you can identify a questionable situation, you’ll know not to reveal any sensitive data. But help from professionals never hurts! Consider hiring a security management expert to monitor your data in real-time for any potential threats.
Join the conversation to learn more about keeping your personal information secure.