Masters of disguise, and skilled in manipulations. These people lurk in the shadows of the internet.
Instead of using complex hacking methods and strategies, or utilizing sophisticated tools, or having experience in computer programming to create and launch a cyberattack against a target, hacks using social engineering use the exact opposite.
This is because social engineering is the act of manipulating people into performing actions or divulging confidential information, with the purpose of information gathering, fraud, or system access.
When faced against these people, no password is safe.
No matter how strong a password is, or whether it's secured behind a password manager, social engineering tricks can bypass all that.
To these people, the process of data extraction is almost too easy.
To do what they do, social engineering methods include, and not limited to:
- Pretext: the attacker can create a false pretense for contacting the victim, such as pretending to be from IT support or a government agency.
- Phishing: the attacker sends an email or text message that appears to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank or credit card company. The message often contains a link that takes the victim to a fake website that looks like the real website.
- Tailgating: the attacker follows an authorized person into a secure area without authorization.
- Quid pro quo: the attacker offers the victim something they want in exchange for confidential information.
- Bait and switch: the attacker offers the victim something they want, such as a free gift, but then switches the offer to something else, such as a request for personal information.
The method are then initiated through four different phases:
- Discovery and investigation.
- Deception and hook.
Here, it's obvious that social engineering tricks aren't like normal hacking.
Instead of hacking directly into systems like what hackers are obviously known for, like using malware that perform keylogging, zero days exploits, or others, these social engineering 'hackers' use cunning tactics to exploit human psychology.
Why go to all the trouble of breaking into an online account when you can just ask for the keys?
Using the right talking points, it all goes down into convincing targets.
These people can talk, bluff, confuse, or trick their way past the gatekeepers. In the end, it only takes a little charm, and a little luck.
Dealing with these people is like a digital spy thriller unfolding right in front of the eyes.
And thanks to the internet, these people have even created communities, where they share their tricks and methods.
The idea is to influence targets into taking an action that may or may not be in their best interest.
Usually, social engineering are carried out in person, over the phone, or online. Rarely do they're done in person, or offline.
Because of this, social engineering is usually described as a form of cyberattack.
Say, just for an example, the hacker that targets an individual, doing the social engineering trick by calling the target's cellular provider. The hacker then pretends to be the target, and convinces the victim, which is the call center worker, to reset the target's SIM card.
Social engineering attacks can be very effective because they exploit human nature.
People are often more likely to trust someone they know, even if they have never met them in person. What's more, to increase effectiveness of this trick, the hacker can urge the victim into acting quickly. This is because people who are pressured or scared are easier to manipulate, and easier to comply with their request.
They can do this by creating a sense of urgency or trust.
Because social engineering tricks do not exploit hardware or software, there is no way for anyone to protect the data.
No antivirus nor antimalware can protect people from this kind of exploit.
Social engineering can be so effective because it preys on the most vulnerable part of any system: the humans themselves.
So here, people should be paranoid. Be very, very paranoid.
As long as the password exists, and that the target knows what the password is, social engineering tricks can unearth that password.
But still, this is not the end of the road. There are solutions to this:
- Be suspicious of any unsolicited emails or text messages, especially if they contain links or attachments.
- Never click on links or open attachments in emails or text messages from unknown people.
- Be very careful about what personal information to share online..
- Never ever give out passwords or other sensitive information over the phone, or through any other medium, even in person, unless the identity of the person is clearly identified.
- Companies and organizations can train employees and staff members to identify and prevent social engineering attacks.
- Use multi-factor authentication. While this may not be able to thwart off social engineering hacks, but the added security layer is an added step the hackers need to deal with.
- Report any suspicious emails or text messages to the sender's organization or to the authorities.
The key to everything, is to remain vigilant, at all times.
By being aware of the risks and taking steps to protect themselves, people can help to reduce their chances of becoming a victim of social engineering.