What Is a Social Engineering Attack?

Most organizations use security scans to protect their data and employees from threat actors, however, a simple scan may not be updated or thorough enough to catch everything. Additionally, a scan doesn’t account for one major vulnerability within an organization: its employees. 

Threat actors can use social engineering to breach even the strongest defense measures, freeze your systems, steal your customer data, and more. But what is a social engineering attack, and what can you do to protect your organization? 

Here, we’ll discuss social engineering tactics, statistics on social engineering, and what to look for in a security awareness training program to help protect your organization from this type of cybercrime.


Social Engineering Tactics and Attack Types

Social engineering is a hacking technique used by criminals to trick employees into taking action or providing information that leads to the threat actor penetrating your organization’s networks. Social engineering attacks are particularly dangerous because hackers can use a variety of tactics to gain unauthorized access to your organization. 

Social Engineering Types

Any tactics used to gain permissions or valuable information from your employees falls under a general social engineering attack type. Social engineering encompasses a wide variety of tactics — from phishing scams to showing up at the office as a package delivery personnel — to obtain sensitive information from an organization’s employees. 

All types of social engineering involve the use of a number of tactics that can sidestep your cyber security protocols and give the threat actor access to your organization’s sensitive information and infrastructure.

Social Engineering Tactics Include:

- Pretexting. The threat actor creates a false story with enough factual information that the victim takes whatever action is suggested by the threat actor.

- Open Source Intelligence (OSINT). The social engineer gains factual information from open sources, such as a company website or social media pages, in order to carry out other social engineering tactics.

- Phishing. General phishing includes sending malicious emails with the intent of tricking a victim into divulging information. There are several advanced forms of phishing including spear phishing, whaling, and vishing that can fool even a reasonably savvy victim.

- Reverse Social Engineering. This is when a threat actor uses tactics to create a problem for a victim and convinces them to contact the threat actor and provide them with sensitive information.



Social Engineering Attacks Aren’t Going Anywhere

Social engineers and the threats they pose are here to stay. In fact, threat actors are using social engineering tactics more blatantly than ever before as seen with the recent criminal activities of the hacking group, “LAPSUS$.” Known as DEV-0537 by Microsoft, this group of threat actors openly announce their attacks on social media and even offer money to employees for credentials that will allow them to infiltrate the infrastructure of the targeted organization and possibly steal data for ransom.

Since nearly all cyber attacks involve social engineering, it’s important that organizations take a closer look at options for protecting themselves. This should include employee cyber security training and other preventative measures, because without understanding why social engineering can be dangerous, an organization may be more vulnerable to an attack. 


What To Look For in a Security Awareness Training Program

A cybersecurity awareness training program can be the most effective way to achieve an overall solid security posture by empowering your employees and giving them the tools they need to spot signs of potential attacks.

When looking for a training program, consider the following:

  • Is this a social engineering training program?
  • Will the training include demonstrations of the latest cybersecurity threats?
  • Does this training program have supportive resources and fresh, relevant content?
  • Can the training program be done virtually for convenience? 

A social engineering training program is a great way to transform vulnerable employees into a reliable defense for your organization. 

After the training, you can also put your organization’s knowledge to the test. When it comes to social engineering attacks, employees may not know the correct course of action to take or, if they do, they may not have any way to practice the steps to protect themselves and the organization. Social engineering testing can help your employees use what they learned from cybersecurity awareness training in a safe environment while highlighting areas for improvement.


Defend Against Social Engineering Attacks and More

Cybersecurity breaches can affect all components of your organization, so it’s crucial to be aware of social engineering tactics and all other possible breaches of your organization’s networks and systems.

To discover what you can do to protect your organization download our free guide, 5 ½ Easy Steps to Avoid Threats.New call-to-action


Topics: Social Enginnering, social engineering attacks

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