By: Editorial Staff, Date: December 5th, 2022

What is social engineering, and how does it work?

Social engineering is a psychological manipulation technique to deceive someone into divulging sensitive information and data. Most social engineering attacks use urgency and fear to manipulate the target to enable access to a data network, provide a username and password, or click a malicious link.

The fraudster may take advantage of human weakness by using a legitimate-looking email to disguise himself as IT or helpdesk personnel and coaxing the target to reveal credentials.

As the modern world becomes hyperconnected, social engineering attacks will continue to grow in sophistication and number. Intruders find out more about a person on social media and fabricate believable emails using that information to increase their chance of tricking users.

Some fraudsters aim to target credentials, while others ask for details that may seem trivial to the employee or victim, making them less suspicious of the social engineering attempt. Hence, every bit of information can open a can of worms.

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Common types of social engineering attacks

  • Phishing scam

This type of attack can come in many different forms. An attacker may pretend to be a popular site and send an email to the target containing a link to a mocked-up website designed to steal login credentials.


Emails from a fake business or government agency asking for personal information; fabricated messages on social media that ask for usernames and passwords.

  • Baiting

This attack entices the victim to provide sensitive information by promising something in exchange, like free movies, music, games, etc.

Baiting exists in two forms—digital and physical. In a digital baiting attack, fraudsters may create a legitimate-looking pop-up that promises something valuable. But when you click the link, your data and device get infected with malware.

While in a physical baiting, the victim may find or receive a USB drive or CD with labels that can pique his interest. Once inserted into his workstation, the entire database will get compromised.

  • Pretexting

The hacker pretends to be someone and uses the job title to collect sensitive data. For example, an impostor may pose as a system administrator or a colleague and ask for employees’ passwords. By establishing a falsified trust, scam artists easily manipulate their victims into giving out their information.

  • Tailgating

This attack occurs when an unauthorized user gains access to a restricted area or device. For instance, a scammer may pretend to be a delivery rider or applicant and follow you to your workplace, where he can spy on employees, collect details in the office, access devices, etc.

  • Smishing and vishing

Smishing is a type of phishing using SMS text messages. Fraudsters trick phone users into disclosing confidential information or clicking on a malicious link.

Vishing is a phone-based phishing scam that aims to direct targets to a phishing site. Scammers may pose as a government agency or car warranty company to ask for information.


5 Social Engineering Prevention Tips

  1. Don’t trust a source blindly

Social engineering attacks invoke fear, curiosity, urgency, and similar emotions that trigger human tendencies. Before clicking on a link or revealing your information, always double-check the source. Fraudsters are here to stay; thus, you must train yourself to cross-check and be able to spot a social engineering scam.

To check if a link is safe, don’t immediately click on it. Instead, hover the cursor over the link to view its details. When someone contacts you and asks for your information, think twice and verify by going to the official website and reporting the incident.

  1. Be vigilant

Unless you’re 100% sure of the person you’re communicating with, don’t easily give in to pressure. Be wary of unsolicited calls, text messages, emails, or a USB drive that suddenly surfaced on your desk. Pay attention to the URL of a website before divulging data on the internet.

When you notice a sense of urgency in the message, rethink giving details. This act is a typical scheme of malicious actors to pressure you so that you won’t think through.

  1. Update antivirus software, and use spam filters

Maintain antivirus software and ensure that updates are activated. Applying spam filters is also helpful in detecting malicious links and files and filtering out emails that are likely to be fake and spam.

  1. Use multifactor authentication (MFA)

This extra layer of security is crucial for critical accounts. You may use biometrics, voice recognition, or an OTP code aside from your password to secure your information. Choose a reliable MFA solution to strengthen the security of your confidential data.

  1. Participate in cybersecurity awareness workshops

This type of training equips employees to combat cybersecurity fraudsters and can save a company from potential damages from cyberattacks and scams. Educate yourself and your team in detecting social engineering attempts and on the best cybersecurity practices to employ.

Social engineering remains one of the favorite tactics of cybercriminals to steal sensitive data. Thus, you need holistic coverage to defend against business Risks. Contact Cyberint to learn more.

Join our webinar Trust Me, I’m an Engineer: Escaping the Traps of Social Engineering


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