The image of hooded basement dwellers staring at lines of code whizzing across a monitor is a dated cliché that’s far removed from the reality of cybercrime. In fact, most so-called hackers aren’t really hackers at all; they often don’t know any more about technology than the average person on the street.
Most of the time, they’re opportunistic criminals depending on social engineering scams to dupe their victims into taking a desired action, whether that’s to surrender confidential information, click on a malicious link, or download the latest ransomware distributed over the dark web. That’s why you need to train your employees to identify common tactics like these:
#1. Phishing emails
Phishing emails are almost as old as the internet itself, and although there are plenty of newer channels to exploit, most attacks still begin with a malicious email. Most of these attacks end up in the spam folder, but smarter criminals will take a more personalized approach or use tactics to circumvent spam filters.
Employees should be trained to identify traits most commonly found in malicious emails, such as poor spelling and grammar, potentially spoofed addresses, generic salutations, and subject lines that try to instill a sense of fear or urgency. For example, a fraudulent email may alert users about breached accounts to get them to act without critically evaluating the source of the message. What’s more, if an unsolicited email contains links or attachments, recipients should always tread carefully.
Pretexting is a type of social engineering attack in which cybercriminals attempt to dupe their victims into divulging privileged information, typically to confirm their identities. Attacks often go for key individual identifiers, such as social security numbers, account numbers, or place of birth. They’ll then use this information for identity theft, either selling it on the dark web or using it to try to gain access to an online account belonging to the victim. Pretexting attacks use just about any medium, such as email, instant messaging, social media, or SMS. Some even rely on telephone calls.
#3. Quid pro quo
Many scammers lure their victims in with promises of great benefits. While most of us have heard of absurd scams like the Nigerian prince looking for help moving millions of dollars out of the country, others are a lot harder to identify. Quid pro quo attacks often promise benefits in the form of a service or financial reward. It could be something as simple as access to a chance to win a free smartphone in exchange for some login credentials (which many people reuse on multiple platforms) or personally identifiable information in exchange for a financial incentive. These attackers often impersonate IT services staff and legitimate corporations.
#4. Watering hole
Watering hole attacks are among the more sophisticated social engineering threats in that they make maximum use of technology to increase their reach and attack more targets. With these attacks, criminals compromise websites frequented by a specific group of users to gain access to the network. The name is inspired by the way predators in the natural world lurk near watering holes to attack their prey while they’re distracted. Since most popular websites are well-protected, watering hole attacks are rare, but the fact that they’re carried out by highly skilled hackers makes them among the most dangerous of all.
Most phishing scams are carried out en masse in the hope of duping one among thousands of potential victims. They’re usually easy to detect and rarely make it past email spam filters. Spear-phishing attacks are quite a different matter, since they’re highly personalized and don’t depend on conventional spam and automation tactics. Spear-phishing scammers are patient people, conducting extensive research into their target victims so they can masquerade as someone the would-be victim knows, such as a co-worker or boss. Although anyone can be a target of a spear-phishing scam, they often go for high-level employees with access to high-value information and company bank accounts.
Considering that social engineering scams exploit reckless user behavior, it’s important to invest in the human element of cybersecurity. This not only involves deploying powerful threat prevention and anti-spam system, but it also means training your staff to have a healthy skepticism of the internet. Tech Squared provides the services and solutions you need to minimize cyber risks. Contact us today.