What is Social Engineering?

What is Social Engineering? – Social Engineering is the art of convincing people to reveal confidential information.

Common targets of social engineering include help desk personnel, technical support executives, system administrators etc.

Social engineers depend on the fact that people are unware of their valuable information and are careless about protecting it.

Prior to performing social engineering attack, an attacker gathers information about the target organization from various sources such as:

  • Official websites of the target organizations, where employee’s IDs, names, and email addresses are shared.
  • Advertisements of the target organization through the type of print media required for high-tech workers trained in Oracle databases or UNIX servers.
  • Blogs, forums, etc. Where employees share basic personal and organizational information.

After information gathering, an attacker executes social engineering attack using various approaches such as impersonation, piggybacking, tailgating, reverse social engineering, and so on.

Social engineering is an art of manipulating people to divulge sensitive information to perform some malicious action. Despite security policies, attackers can compromise organiztion’s sensitive information using social engineering as it targets the weakness of people.

Most often, employees are not even aware of a security lapse on their part and reveal organization’s critical information inadvertently. For instance, unwittingly answering the questions of strangers and replying to spam email.

What is Social Engineering?

Common Targets of Social Engineering

A social engineer uses the vulnerability of human nature as their most effective tool. usually, people believe and trust others and derive fulfillment from helping the needy. Disscussed below are most common targets of social engineering in an organizations:

  • Receptionists and Help-Desk Personnel: Social engineers generally target service-desk or help desk personnel of the target organization by tricking them into divulging confidential information about the organization. To extract information, such as a phone number or a password, the attacker first wins the trust of the individual with the information. On winning their trust, the attacker manipulates them to get valuable information. Receptionists and help-desk staff may readily share information if they feel they are doing so to help a customer.
  • Technical Support Executives : Another target of social engineers are technical support executives. The social engineers may take the approach of contacting technical support executives to obtain sensitive information by pretending to be a senior management, customer, vendor and so on.
  • System Administrators: A system administrator in an organization is responsible for maintaining the systems and thus he/she may have critical information such as the type and version of OS, admin passwords, and so on, that could be helpful for an attacker in planning an attack.
  • Users and Clients: Attackers could approach users and clients of the target organization, pretending to be a tech support person to extract sensitive information.
  • Vendors of the Target Organizations: Attackers may also target the vendors of the organiztion to gain critical information that could be helpful in executing other attacks.

What is Social Engineering?

Impact of Social Engineering Attack on Organization

Social engineering does not seem to be a serious threat, but it can lead to heavy losses for organizations. The impact of social engineering attack on organizations include:

  • Economic Losses: Competitors may use social engineering techniques to steal sensitive information such as development plans and marketing strategies of a target company, which can result into a economic loss to the target company.
  • Damage to Goodwill : For and organization, goodwill is important for attracting customers. Social engineering attacks may damage that goodwill by leaking sensitive organizational data.
  • Loss of Privacy: Privacy is a major concern, especially for big organizations. If an organization is unable to maintain the privacy of its stakeholders or customers, then people can lose trust in the company and may discontinue the business association with organization. Consequently. the organiztion could faces losses.
  • Dangers of Terrorism : Terrorism and anti-social elements pose a threat to an organization’s assets – people and property. Terrorists may use social engineering techniques to make blueprints of their targets to infilterate their targets.
  • Lawsuits and Arbitration: Lawsuits and aribitration result in negative publicity for an organization and affects the business’s performance
  • Temporary or Permanent Closure : Social engineering attacks can result in loss of goodwill. Lawsuits and arbitration may force a temporary or permanent closure of an organization and its business activities.

What is Social Engineering?

Behaviors Vulnerable To Attacks

  • Natural human tendency to trust others is the basis of any social engineering attack.
  • Ignorance about social engineering and its effects on the workforce makes the organization an easy target.
  • Fear of severe losses in case of non-compliance with the social engineer’s request.
  • Social engineers lure the targets to divulge information by promising something for nothing (greedliness)
  • Targets are asked for help and they comply with as a moral duty.

Factors That Make Companies Vulnerable To Attacks

Many factors make companies vulnerable to social engineering attacks, some of them are as follows:

  • Insufficient Security Training
    • Employees can be ignorant about social engineering tricks used by an attacker to lure them into divuging sensitive data about the organization. There fore, the minimum responisibility of any organization is to educate their employees about social engineering techniques and the threats associated with them to prevent social engineering attacks.
  • Un Regulated Access to the Information :
    • For any company, one of the main assets is its database. providing unlimited access or allowing everyone an access to the sensitive data might land them in trouble. Therefore, companies must ensure proper surveillance and training to key personnel accessing the sensitive data.
  • Several Organiztional Units :
    • Some organizations have their units at different geographic locations making it difficult to manage the system. on the other hand, it becomes easier for an attacker to access the organization’s sensitive information.
  • Lack of Security Policies :
    • Security policy forms the foundation of security infrastracture. It is a high-level document describing the security controls implemented in a company. An organization should take extreme measures related to every possible security threat or vulnerability. Implementation of certain security measure, such as password change policy, information sharing policy, access privileges, unique user identitification, and centrailized security, prove to be beneficial.

Why is Social Engineering Effective?

Like other techniques, social engineering does not deal with network security issues insteal, it deals with psychological manipulation of the human being to extract desired information.

Following are the various reasons why social engineering continues to be effective:

  • Despite various security policies, preventing socially engineering is a challenge because human beings are most susceptible to variation.
  • It is challenging to detect social engineering attempts. Social engineering is the art and science of manipulating people into divulging information. and using this trick, attackers sneak into and organization’s valult of information.
  • No method guarantees comlete security from social engineering attacks.
  • No specific hardware or software is available to safeguard from social engineering attacks,
  • This approach is relatively easy to implements and free of cost.

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