What Is Social Engineering?
Social engineering is a type of cyberattack that uses psychological manipulation techniques to gain a target's trust to get the target to divulge personal information, click on web links, or open malicious email attachments. Cybercriminals leverage social engineering techniques to present themselves as legitimate individuals with access to trusted information sources.
Today's threat actors track the digital footprints of their targets to gather necessary background information and gain trust. Access to one compromised account allows a threat actor to infiltrate an organization's entire network and carry out a full-fledged cyberattack.
Types of Social Engineering Attacks
Baiting and Quid Pro Quo
Examples of Social Engineering Attacks
Social engineering attacks continue to rise and plague organizations in every sector. Worse, cyberattack techniques continue to evolve, and criminals are finding creative ways to earn trust and trick people— thus compromising their employing enterprise's security.
The 2019 Google and Facebook spearphishing scam resulted in a loss of $100 million, making it one of the most significant social engineering attacks of all time. A fake company was set up, pretending to work with Google and Facebook. The scammers then sent phishing emails to employees, invoicing them for goods or services and directing them to deposit money into fraudulent accounts.
In 2015, a Silicon Valley computer networking company lost $46.7 million to a social engineering scam. The incident involved the impersonation of employees, which allowed the threat actors to make fraudulent money transfer requests.
Social engineering attacks target people's emotions, but they have specific identifying characteristics regardless of the threat actor's objectives. For example, social engineering attackers use language that creates a false feeling of urgency. Detecting such attacks requires intelligent analysis of the situation by slowing down and double-checking the legitimacy of an "urgent" request.
Another way to detect social engineering attacks is by analyzing phrases being used in communication. Unfortunately, most social engineering assaults are so focused and misleading that they are challenging to catch as fraudulent—even security-conscious people can be tricked by social engineering.
To detect, prevent, and mitigate social engineering attacks, organizations should adopt a security solution such as Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) that can block new and advanced threats in real time and stop all malicious attacks from getting through.