The internet has experienced a lot of breaches since its inception, and almost all of them can be attributed to one vulnerability, human error. That’s right; we are a vulnerability waiting to be exploited. Cybercriminals exploit this vulnerability using only one attack; Social engineering. This technique involves manipulations based on trust to trick and fool an individual into giving out confidential and sensitive information. Most of the time, an attacker uses the little-known information to gain your trust.
How cybercriminals carry out social engineering
Social engineering can be done in many ways even without involving the internet. Here are the major ways in which attackers carry out this technique;
- Phishing – This is the most common and most successful form of social engineering. When phishing, cybercriminals tend to acquire confidential information by either using emails and then directing an individual to a spoofed site. Most of the email won’t look suspicious. Phishing can be done in various forms including spear phishing and vishing. Spear phishing targets a specific individual or company. Vishing is phishing but through a phone call. Vishing is also common, and at the end, tricked individuals may end up revealing information such as their social security numbers.
- Pretexting – This is a technique that mostly uses lies to gain trust and afterwards acquire information that can be used to confirm ones’ identity. Attackers may even invoke empathy when using this technique. For instance, attackers may pretend they need help with paying hospital bills. Once you contribute, they will have your information.
- Quid pro quo – This method involves giving something in order to get something. If you are keen on the internet, you might have come across some ads that tell you have won a PS4, but to receive your item, you are required to enter some information such your phone number, social security number, and other sensitive information.
- Baiting – In this technique, cybercriminals entice an individual by commonly providing a free service. For instance, attackers may host free software, games, movies, music, and other files but with a malware hidden within. When a user downloads any of the files, they will trigger the malware and their system will be infected.
Avoiding social engineering attacks
This involves understanding security and privacy risks, mitigation, and prevention. Once you are equipped with this knowledge, you will know how to deal with phishing, baiting, and other social engineering attacks.
Be careful with whom you trust
Give out fewer personal details on the internet especially when filling online corporate forms. Nowadays attackers have perfected the art of impersonating corporate emails and other institutions that require sensitive information. Also, post less sensitive information on social media accounts.
Use two-factor authentication (2FA)
Besides using strong passwords, ensure you have implemented 2FA in your sensitive accounts. This minimizes the risk of your data getting into wrong hands even after they somehow manage to get your password. Also, avoid using the same password in all your accounts.
Use biometric authentication
This is helpful when 2FA is not available especially when financial transactions are involved. Biometrics such as fingerprints can greatly help in reducing fraud by curbing identity theft. Take advantage of this form of authentication if it’s available.
Use a VPN
By providing security and privacy, a VPN can help reduce and even mitigate social engineering attacks before they occur. When using a VPN, your information won’t be intercepted by prying eyes and also some VPN offer features that enhance your cyber security. Additionally, when using a VPN, you leave a minimal trail of data that even when traced, attackers will end up at the VPN’s doorstep.