Social Engineering

Hackers and malicious attackers always try to gain information by other means if they couldn't access otherwise. They continuously keep searching for information they can obtain from their victim and wreak havoc on the network's resources. Social Engineering is something different from physical security exploits (like shoulder surfing and dumpster driving). Shoulder Surfing is the direct observation technique, such as looking over victims' shoulder to get information - what he/she's typing or what password, PIN, security pattern locks the victim is entering. Dumpster diving is a form of modern salvaging of wastes such as papers, hard copy, documentation, paper-based records discarded in large commercial, residential, industrial, and construction containers. Hackers do this famous dumpster driving to search for particular information from that discarded waste.

What is Social Engineering?

It is an attack vector that relies mostly on human interaction and often involves tricking people. In other words, social engineering refers to the psychological manipulation of a human being into performing actions by interacting with them and then breaking into normal security postures. It's like a trick of confidence to gather information and gain unauthorized access by tricking or doing fraud.

More on Social Engineering Tactics

Many social engineering attacks directly depend on people's willingness. This hacking technique has an advantage that it requires no knowledge of code. Despite its simplicity, risks connected with this attack are serious. Anyone can fall under the prey of these attacks, and everyone should keenly stay aware of anyone asking for personal or private information. This technique takes advantage of the weakest links within an organization's security defenses, i.e., people. Hence, this hacking trick is also termed "people hacking," which involves exploiting human beings ' trusting nature. Security experts recommend that IT departments and organizations frequently do penetration testing, which uses social engineering techniques, which helps administrators detect those who pose under specific types of attacks and identify which employee required additional training and security awareness against such threats. Criminals use social engineering as it's easier to perform by exploiting your natural inclination to trust that it is to discover ways to hack your system or software.

Types of Social Engineering

  1. Human-based social engineering.
  2. Computer-based social engineering.
  3. Mobile-based social engineering.

Tricks You Can Use to Do Social Engineering

  • Exploit using familiarity.
  • Get a job for the targeted organization.
  • Creating a hostile situation.
  • Gathering and using information.
  • Reading body language.

Common Social Engineering Attacks

Usually, we receive an email from a friend who may contain an attachment bound with some malicious code, and when we download that attachment, the malicious code starts executing. Here, making the victim convince to download the attachment is a crucial part of social engineering. If the criminal manages to hack or socially engineer the victim's email password, then they can access that person's contact list and other compromised passwords of other social networking sites that need this hacked email's support to log in. And, because most people use the same or similar password everywhere, a hacker can put their dirty hands and log in to other sites too.

Other types of tricks used for social engineering can use a victim's trust and curiosity.

  1. Link-based attack: You have been given a link from your friend or someone you know, and since the link comes from a friend and you are curious, you'll trust the link provided by him/her and click it. With this single click, you may get infected by malware, or that criminally minded friend of yours can gain unauthorized access to your machine/account.
  2. Another similar case is what happens when there is any picture, movie, video, document, etc. which contains a malicious program bound or embedded and you trust the attachment and download it; the criminal can take over your machine and can do criminal activities from your PC or using your IP address.

Effective Implications From This Attack

Social Engineering has adverse and serious consequences, as this tactic is to coerce someone for information and lead to ill-gotten gain. The type of information social engineers can get are:

  • A user or administrator password.
  • Security keys and badges to get access to any building.
  • Intellectual property such as source codes, design specifications, or other research-related documentation.
  • Customer lists and sales prospects.
  • Confidential and private information may also be the hacker's target for any organization.

If any information gets leaked, it can result in various consequences such as financial losses, degrade employee morale, decrease customer loyalty, etc.

Behaviors Vulnerable to Social Engineering

  • Human nature and trust is the base of this attack vector.
  • Fear of severe losses.
  • Ignoring and neglecting the intensity of social engineering makes the organization an easy target.
  • Victims are asked for help, and with due moral obligation, they fall under the prey of social engineers.

Phases of Social Engineering Attack

  • Research on target company: via dumpster driving and information from websites.
  • Select the victim: identify any frustrated employee of the targeted company.
  • Develop a relationship: with that selected employee.
  • Exploit the relationship: using this relationship, seize all sensitive information and current technologies the target organization uses.

Phone Systems Used for Social Engineering

Attackers and hackers can also use a dial-by-name feature, which is a built-in feature for most voice mail systems to obtain information. To access this feature, hackers usually need to press 0 after calling the company's main number or after the hacker enters someone's voice mail-box. Using this phone-based social engineering technique, attackers can protect their identities by hiding where they call from. The various ways are:

  • Using residential phones.
  • Using business phones.
  • Using VOIP servers.

Countermeasures

Organizations can minimize security risks by:

  • Establishing trusted frameworks for personnel/employees.
  • Perform unannounced periodic security-framework tests.
  • Use of proper waste management service to protect organizations from dumpster drivers.
  • Establishing security policies and protocols.
  • Training employees to defend from getting manipulated by outsiders and trained them to refuse the relationship politely or share information from strangers may be a hacker.

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