Social Engineering: What is it and How do I Identify it?

What is Social Engineering?

On our other platforms, we have recently posted about a social engineering attempt that was disguised as a QuickBooks service report call. It feigned a message that QuickBooks was not receiving the most recent updates and is not synchronizing with the Intuit server. While that sounds very professional, it just simply was not true. Social engineering can be presented to you in many ways, phone calls are just one example. From text messages to emails to DMs on social media, social engineering can take place anywhere, anytime. At its core, social engineering is the art of manipulating people into giving up confidential information or performing actions that may not be in their best interest. It’s a psychological con game that cybercriminals use to gain access to systems, networks, or physical locations, or for financial gain.

The reason social engineering is used so frequently is because it helps hackers cut down on their efforts. If they can just simply ask you for personal information to get what they want, why spend extra time breaking into systems with multiple security layers?

Common Techniques:

  • Phishing is a technique that is the most common method of social engineering. The attacker sends deceitful messages that seem urgent via email, text, or web ad pretending to be a reputable company asking individuals to expose their personal or business information. “8 out of 10 organizations had at least one individual to a phishing attempt by CISA Assessment teams.” (2023).Phishing Infographic. Capital Heights, Maryland: CISA Assessment)
  • Pretexting is a fabricated message that manipulates the victim to trust the message that was sent to them. They typically will appear as a message from an employer, a romantic interest, or a family member and have something personal sprinkled into the message. The message will conclude with a request to download a link, share sensitive information, or send money to an account. Other real-life examples of pretexting include IRS/Government scams and cryptocurrency scams.  
  • Quid Pro Quo is a type of baiting method where an attacker tries to provide a service to a victim such as tech support or a cash reward in exchange for business or personal information.

All of these methods allow the attacker to bypass security measures into your network without having to do any heavy lifting.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Business:

Be Skeptical:

Any of the three techniques listed above can happen via text, phone call, email, or social media DMs- so preparing yourself and your employees from attacks could save you more than any software could. When playing and working in the cyber landscape, it never hurts to be skeptical of anything. Always think twice before clicking on links, verify information on an email, and usually if it sounds suspicious, it most likely is.

Some common signs that a message is malicious:

  • Grammar and spelling errors
  • Weird characters within the text
  • Inconsistencies in the email address, links, and domains
  • Offer is too good to be true

Educate Yourself and Others:

Human error is the number one reason why cyber-attacks happen, so keeping your employees educated on attacks is key to cyber security. Investing in cyber security training will keep everyone up to date on the latest cyber-attack attempts. Our blog post about the benefits of cyber security training will have more information on the topic.

Invest in a Cyber Security Strategy:

Make sure you have significant security layers for your users and devices. These layers will make it harder for hackers to access your network if someone within your organization were to expose sensitive information. The best thing would be to enable multi-factor authentication for all users in your organization. Check out our multifactor authentication blog post for more information! It would also be wise to look for security software that runs in the background of your company’s network such as email filtering, internet content filtering, password management, and Zero Trust software . These types of software constantly monitor your network for any kind of red flags that indicate someone outside your network is trying to infiltrate.

Social engineering attempts aren’t going anywhere, so learning how to identify and properly handle them is crucial to the survival of your business. At Axigent Technologies, we’re happy to answer any questions or inquiries about how to invest in your businesses cyber wellbeing.

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