Keeping your business safe is becoming harder and harder to do in an age where criminal attacks are more sophisticated than ever before. Social engineering attacks are a multi-million-dollar industry for criminals around the world, which spurs on a consistent stream of new, innovative forms of fraud.
Obviously, there are serious financial consequences for any business that becomes a victim of a successful social engineering attack. However, it’s not all doom and gloom as it’s entirely possible for businesses to put robust safeguards in place to identify and prevent social engineering attacks.
To help you get a better idea on what is social engineering fraud, we’ve highlighted the information you really need to know. Take a look at our guide now, or head over to our Tech page to find more of our recent articles there.
What is social engineering?
Social engineering is the term given to criminals that use deception in order to gain confidential or personal information. Once criminals successfully extract the information they require, they will go about using it for a range of fraudulent activities.
Social engineering attacks rely on urgency, trickery, manipulation, and fear in order to succeed. But, having a company policy in place to educate employees of the current and evolving threats out there will help keep your business safe. We’ll explain what you can do to prevent an attack in more detail later.
What are the threats you need to be aware of?
While criminals are constantly looking for new ways to attack businesses through social engineering scams, there are some tried and tested methods that are more commonly used. These include, but are not limited to:
It’s more than likely that you’ve already heard of phishing before as it’s something most people have to watch out for in their personal email inbox. However, you will also find that phishing attacks target would-be victims through chat, SMS, web advertisements, and fake websites.
Typical phishing scams are designed to get people to hand over their personal information, such as names, login details, passwords, and so on. Some phishing emails are clearly fraudulent, with poor spelling, grammatical errors, and strange senders’ addresses. But, others will come across as extremely plausible, which increases the chances of a successful outcome for the criminals.
Pretexting is a far more personal form of social engineering that revolves around quickly gaining a victim’s trust through carefully crafted lies. A criminal may pose as a co-worker, police officer, bank clerk, government official, or similar kind of authority figure.
Once the criminal is believed by the victim, they will work to extract as much sensitive personal or company data as possible. The main issue facing companies is that this information will probably be used for fraudulent activities extremely quickly as an employee who falls for this attack may raise the alarm.
Scareware is designed to cause the target of an attack to react in an irrational way, which gives criminals an opening to exploit. This type of attack will normally deceive employees into installing a form of malware onto their computer. Once installed, malware can be used by criminals to capture and transmit sensitive company data.
This kind of attack often appears in the form of a popup or banner in web browsers while online. Normally, scareware will falsely alert a target that their computer is infected with malware and then purport to offer a solution, which is in fact malware. However, it’s important to note that this kind of social engineering attack can also be received over email and SMS.
One of the more obscure forms of social engineering, tailgating relies on criminals actually following their victims in order to steal private information. So, a criminal may pose as a postal delivery driver and then ‘piggyback’ on an employee’s security clearance in order to gain access to a sensitive area.
As the risk involved with this kind of attack is higher, it’s not normally the first port of call for criminals. However, should a hacker manage to find your company data centre or a hardwired route into it, your sensitive material will most likely be entirely compromised.
What can you do to successfully prevent attacks?
Thankfully, there are prevention schemes you can put in place to combat the threat of social engineering. Most importantly, develop a training programme for your employees that will highlight the risks involved with opening emails from unknown sources and the tell-tale signs of a fraudulent email or scam online.
Secondly, ensure that your IT department has up-to-date anti-malware software installed on every company PC. As an added layer of security, work to implement a multifactor identification procedure for your employees to follow.