What is Social Engineering?


Social engineering refers to the psychological manipulation techniques of cybercriminals that aims to trick users into revealing specific information or performing security mistakes. Such attacks can happen in one or more steps.

It begins with the perpetrator investigating the intended victim to obtain necessary background information. He or she will look at the potential points of entry and weak security protocols before proceeding with the attack. After which, the attacker will try to gain the victim’s trust and provide stimuli for subsequent actions that break security practices, such as giving away sensitive information or granting access to critical resources. Using best rated free antivirus like Comodo Internet Security is beneficial to keep you protected from social engineering attacks.

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Examples of Social Engineering Attacks

Social engineering attacks are done in different ways and can be performed anywhere where human interaction is involved. Here are some common forms of digital social engineering techniques that you should be aware of.

Baiting

Baiting attacks lure the victim to perform a certain task in exchange of a false promise that can pique the victim’s greed or curiosity. It is a trap that steals personal information or infects a computer system with malware. For instance, a malware-infected USB flash drive that is labelled with ‘payroll list’ is left in a conspicuous area like a public bathroom or a parking lot. Because of the authentic look of the flash drive, the victim will pick up the bait and insert it into his or her device.

Baiting frauds may also be carried out in the digital sphere. Online baiting attacks come in the form of appealing ads that lead to malicious sites or encourage users to download a malware-infected application. To reduce the risk of baiting assaults, you must deploy security policies such as installing best rated free antivirus that can block unauthorized software that can infect your PC. Also, you must not easily trust unknown sources as they can put you in danger.

Scareware

Scareware is a type of social engineering technique where the attacker sends false alarms and fictitious threats to the victim. Users are made to believe that their system is infected with malware, tricking them to download potentially dangerous software. Scareware is also commonly known as deception software, rogue scanner software, and fraudware.

Scareware may appear as legitimate-looking banners that pops up while you are browsing the web. It may display messages such as, “Security Warning! Your computer may be infected with a harmful program.” It may ask you to install a malware-infected tool or it will direct you to a malicious site where your computer becomes infected.

To prevent scareware from infecting your PC, you must always update your browser and install best rated free antivirus to mitigate this kind of threat.

Pretexting

Pretexting is the practice of pretending to be someone else to obtain sensitive information from an unsuspecting individual. The attacker usually establishes trust with their victim by presenting himself as a colleague, a bank official, or another person who have the ‘right-to-know’ authority. The attacker will exploit the victim’s trust and gather his/her important personal data such as social security numbers, personal addresses, phone numbers, bank records, and other privileged information.

Phishing

Phishing scams are email and text messages that creates a sense of urgency, curiosity, or fear in victims. It prompts them to provide sensitive information, click on the links that lead to malicious websites, or download attachments that contain viruses.

An example of this is an email sent to a user of an online service requiring him/her to immediately change his/her password. It often includes a link to a fake website (which is identical to the legitimate version), asking the victim to enter their current credentials and new password. Upon submission, the information will be sent to the attacker.

As phishing messages often look similar, detecting and blocking them are much easier for mail servers having access to threat sharing platforms.

Takeaways

Social engineers manipulate emotions of users such as curiosity or fear to carry out illegal activities. To avoid being a victim of such cybercrimes, you should always be cautious whenever you receive a threatening email or see an attractive offer displayed on a website. Being alert can help protect yourself against most cyber-attacks.

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