Social engineering security threats

If you own a computer, you might already be familiar with the risks involved in surfing the internet. Cybercrime has developed consistently in parallel with the increasing usage of digital devices in day-to-day life. We use computers, phones, and tablets for just about everything, and storing critically personal information on them has become normalized.

Organizations face a massive risk when it comes to cybercrime and data protection. Being hacked at the organizational level can result in huge financial and collateral damage. Attacks can leave an organization crippled at the loss of trust. Social engineering is a common method of infiltrating critical information and comes in many forms.

This article will cover everything you need to know about social engineering and how to protect yourself against attacks.

What is Social Engineering?

Social engineering refers to a variety of malicious tactics aimed at acquiring personal information by manipulating victims. A social engineering attack is usually directed toward obtaining personal passwords, bank details, and other highly sensitive information. The attacker tricks the victim into divulging private information through a variety of techniques.

Attackers typically use this information to hack into accounts, ultimately leading to financial gain. They might use the information to impersonate someone, gain access to their finances, or, might threaten to leak sensitive data if not renumerated to their satisfaction.

Offenders use social engineering tactics because hacking the human mind is far easier than guessing passwords or hacking into a computer system.

Your organization is under constant threat from cyber or social engineering attacks. Familiarizing yourself with it can be a helpful preventative measure. So, what are the different types of social engineering attacks?

Common Types of Social Engineering

Social engineering typically works by tricking the victim into divulging private information. This is done through a variety of techniques, including, but not limited to phishing, vishing, and baiting. Each tactic has its own qualities and once you become familiar with them, you’ll probably realize you’ve already encountered them. Here are explanations of some of the most common forms of social engineering.

Phishing

This is one of the most common forms of social engineering. It involves the attacker sending a campaign of emails, text messages, or messages through social media. The attacker prods victims to disclose private information and uses it to hack into accounts, causing financial and collateral damage to victims.

Phishing attacks often create a sense of urgency to bypass the victim’s cognitive defenses. They do this by inciting fear or curiosity in the messages they send. These messages usually contain a malicious link or file intended for the victim to click on.

Vishing

Vishing is essentially the same as phishing except that it typically occurs over the phone. The perpetrator will call someone and over the course of a phone call, try to trick the victim into handing over information the thief can use to infiltrate them.

Pretexting

This malicious social engineering tactic involves impersonating someone the victim is likely to trust. The perpetrator sets up a situation or “pretext” that leads the victim into disclosing sensitive information. The perpetrator might impersonate a bank, the police, or a tax officer. This is because some might think it normal for these professionals to ask for personal information.

Baiting

Baiting involves luring a victim into being infected by malicious software. It may be a flash drive left conspicuously for somewhere to find or an advertisement on a website. They set the bait and wait for someone to bite so to speak. The bait can be both physical or a link or file from a malicious website. It’s often disguised to be legitimate prompting the victim’s curiosity. To avoid baiting, never click on a link or insert something into your PC that you’re not 100% sure about.

Tailgating

Tailgating, also known as ‘piggybacking’ is a social engineering attack where a perpetrator gains access without proper authentication. They do this in a variety of ways including impersonating someone typically deemed harmless (pizza delivery guy or postman) to gain access to restricted areas. They may also just follow a fully authenticated person closely behind to give security the impression that they’re together.

Once inside, they may seek to install malware or ransomware onto the organization’s computers, hacking valuable information for financial gain.

Quid Pro Quo Attacks

“Quid Pro Quo” attacks are largely considered low-level attacks as they don’t require the use of technology or specialized skills. The attacker typically calls a bunch of random numbers impersonating someone from technical support from a service they’re subscribed to.

They offer help or service which allows them the opportunity to install ransomware on your computer or other devices. It’s also known as the “something-for-something” attack because the attacker typically offers you some kind of “help” or “service”.

The Risk for Business Organizations

Businesses are at particularly high risk of social engineering through their unsuspecting employees. Perpetrators feel that their time is better spent targeting a business rather than individuals because the pay-off is likely much higher. Neglecting to implement a solid security system for your organization leaves you open to being targeted by highly skilled criminals.

Snowfensive Security

The Snowfensive security team consists of highly trained security professionals passionate about protecting your business. Snowfensive security employs a comprehensive approach to organizational security including defending against social engineering attacks.

The security team works by conducting a thorough analysis aimed at identifying vulnerabilities in your organization’s security. Our team provides customized awareness training aimed at educating your employees about potential risks and how to deal with them securely and effectively.

Our team carries years of professional experience successfully protecting organizations against cybercrime, social engineering attacks, and other prevalent security risks.

Protect Your Business Against Social Engineering

Businesses are under particular risk of being targetted as they represent a great risk-to-reward ratio to attackers. Snowfensive is an industry-leading security firm with years of experience and the necessary expertise to keep your business safe from attacks.

Penetration Testing - Data Security World Map Artwork

Cybersecurity is a growing issue for businesses across all industries. In just the first half of 2020, over 36 billion records were exposed due to data breaches. No matter how big or small your company is, it’s important to prevent your private information from falling into the wrong hands. One of the best ways to preserve your data—and integrity—is through penetration testing or a pen test. Here’s a closer look at how this test works and the benefits it brings to your business.

What Is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing measures the effectiveness of a company’s virtual security by safely attacking a system and then exposing vulnerabilities. Imagine testing your home security by attempting to break in—penetration testing follows a similar concept, except it evaluates your IT infrastructure rather than a physical environment. By pinpointing weak elements in your security structure, a pen test can help strengthen your system and protect against threats.

Benefits of Penetration Testing

When done correctly, penetration testing brings several benefits to your business, including the following:

  • Revealing vulnerabilities and risks in your IT system
  • Gauging your cyber-defense abilities
  • Promoting business continuity
  • Reducing costs
  • Enhancing your credibility

The most obvious advantage of pen tests is their ability to expose vulnerable elements of your security system and determine how strong your current defenses are. Not only does this tell you what improvements you need to make, but it also offers guidance on changes you should implement in the workplace. For example, if your employees are unintentionally doing anything that could lead to data breaches (such as leaving computers logged in), penetration testing will let you know.

By exposing potential threats, penetration testing can save money and help ensure your networks are up and running 24/7. Studies show that just an hour of downtime can cost businesses $260,000—moreover, downtime negatively affects the customer experience and takes valuable time away from your business and employees.

Finally, a pen test can promote your company’s credibility. Anyone that works with you, from customers and employees to investors and suppliers, is more likely to trust your business if you’ve properly vetted your security. Penetration testing can also help you meet legal and industry compliance requirements.

How Is Penetration Testing Performed?

Now that you understand the benefits of penetration testing, you might be wondering: how is the test done? A standard pen test involves five stages, which are detailed below.

Stage 1: Reconnaissance

The first step of penetration testing is reconnaissance or the act of learning as much as possible about your business security. To better understand this stage, let’s go back to the home robbery analogy—before breaking into a home, the thieves might try to gain an understanding of the interior layout. During reconnaissance, the pen test attempts to learn more about the following:

  • Your network architecture
  • Your operating systems
  • The applications you use
  • The users you have

To discover as much as possible about your network, the test might search the web, examine your site or use web crawlers (or bots).

Stage 2: Scanning

Vulnerability scanning is often included as part of penetration testing. As the name suggests, it involves assessing your computers and network systems for weak points. It can detect vulnerabilities in any of the following areas:

  • Network
  • Operating system
  • Staff

Once the scan is complete, it will produce a report that details potential weaknesses you should be looking out for.

Stage 3: Gaining Access

The third stage—gaining access—is what sets a pen test apart from a standard vulnerability scan. While a scan can give you generic information about your business’s weaknesses, penetration testing actually shows you how attackers infiltrate your system.

The most common way to gain access to a network is through exploits. Put simply, an exploit is a piece of code that finds vulnerabilities, then uses them to invade the network. There are three main types of exploits:

  • Remote exploits: These attacks are conducted from separate servers (generally a considerable distance away from the site).
  • Local exploits: Attacks typically take place on-site. Usually, the attacker is someone that has a low level of access and wants to expand it.
  • Client-side exploits: These exploits are targeted toward clients. The attacker might send a client malicious files that then affect the business software.

Penetration testing can tell you which exploits pose a threat to your company, helping you formulate a more effective strategy.

Stage 4: Maintaining Access

Once the pen test gains access, the next step is to see how long it can keep it. While maintaining access, an attacker will often do one of the following:

  • Exploit other systems
  • Stay hidden in the system

The initial exploit can be used as a launching pad for further exploits. For instance, once an attacker has access, they might expand this by setting up a sniffer (a tool that can intercept network traffic). They can then send this data to whomever they want.

Alternatively, the attacker might choose to cause damage without growing their access. For example, they could set up a Trojan horse virus designed to damage, disrupt or steal data.

Stage 5: Covering Tracks

The final stage of penetration testing is covering tracks. Essentially, in this stage, the attacker eliminates any signs that may lead to their identity. Here are a few ways an attacker might try to conceal their crimes:

  • Deleting any accounts they made to commit the attack
  • Deleting files associated with the attack
  • Removing, changing, or destroying logs

To further complicate things, the attacker might try to leave false evidence or create an intentionally confusing scene. This may involve creating fake accounts, renaming files, and creating false data.

Get a Pen Test Today

If you run a business, it’s essential that you preserve your financial assets and the private data of your clients and employees. By covering every step that an external (or internal) attacker would take to infiltrate your system, penetration testing can help you optimize your security and protect your reputation.

Of course, for effective results, it’s important to conduct a high-quality pen test. At Snowfensive, we’ve helped tons of private and public companies, including Fortune 500 companies and government agencies, improve their security through comprehensive penetration testing. Our test services include the following:

  • External and internal networks
  • Web applications
  • WiFi focused assessments

Whether you’re exposed to external attacks or have risks within your staff, you can trust our technology to identify your vulnerabilities and craft an effective strategy to address them. Keep your business safe by contacting us today for a pen test!