Resource Corner

How to Avoid Social Engineering Cyberattacks

Learn how to protect your business against social engineering cyberattacks.

hacker touching ipad

Cyber security is primarily about knowing who and what to trust when it comes to protecting your digital information. Even the strongest security systems are vulnerable when the people accessing those systems are tricked into giving away sensitive information such as login credentials or account details.

Cyber criminals often use human psychology and the art of manipulation to scare, confuse or rush you into opening a malicious link or attachment or into providing personal information through a process known as "social engineering." By understanding the mechanics behind social engineering attacks, businesses can fortify their defenses and safeguard their assets against cybercriminals who manipulate employees to breach security protocols.

The Mechanics of Social Engineering Attacks

Cybercriminals deploy social engineering with meticulous planning, often involving a deep dive into potential vulnerabilities they can exploit within a company. The weakest link, surprisingly, is not always technological but human. Employees can inadvertently become gateways for attackers due to the manipulative tactics of social engineering. These tactics hinge on studying victims closely, leveraging emotional triggers such as urgency, greed, or empathy, and gradually building trust to infiltrate a company's network.

Cybercriminals meticulously gather information on their targets through public sources like websites and social media, akin to chess players strategizing moves in advance. This preparatory work lays the groundwork for a stealthy assault on the company's defenses.

Stages of a Social Engineering Attack

  • Preparation: Attackers conduct thorough research, collecting data from public profiles and engaging potential victims with seemingly innocuous quizzes or surveys that can reveal password-reset security answers.

  • Execution: With a believable pretext, the criminal engages the target, aiming to build enough trust to prompt the victim into compromising actions, such as clicking on malicious links or divulging confidential information.

  • Exit: The attacker endeavors to remain undetected, slowly exfiltrating data or laying the groundwork for a larger-scale attack, like ransomware or financial fraud, often leaving the victim unaware until significant damage has occurred.
Risk Assessment and Control Implementation

To counteract social engineering, organizations must assess potential risks and establish robust controls. This involves scrutinizing publicly available information that could be exploited and implementing stringent cybersecurity measures:

  • Reduce Exposure: Minimize publicly accessible information that could aid an attacker. Implement a corporate policy to regulate what employees can disclose online, particularly regarding job roles and company operations.

  • Employee Vigilance: Regularly test employees with simulated phishing exercises to gauge their response to potential threats. Continuous education on recognizing and responding to social engineering tactics is crucial.

  • Technical Safeguards: Implement systems to flag external emails with cautionary notices and streamline reporting mechanisms for suspicious activities.
All content is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. You should consult your legal and tax or accounting advisors before making any financial decisions.