Some network attackers resort to obtaining as much information regarding network users as possible as long as it gives them access to the network. This technique is known as social engineering.
Commonly, attackers act as network support team officials. They then call network users claiming that there is an issue with the specific user’s account and that they would like to help. Blindly, the user reveals their login details (username and password) to the pretentious attacker-who uses the information to gain access into the network.
Other attackers go as far as searching into discarded trash (old files and documents) with the hope of stumbling upon some user’s network access credentials. When they do, they use such information to gain access to and do a lot of illegal activities on the network.
There is no 100% watertight measure to prevent network intrusion using this technique. However, it is important to educate network users on the need to keep their network access credentials private and confidential so as to minimize the chances of unauthorized entry to the network via social engineering.
Hackers already know ahead of time that most people have been using computers for a long time and they know what to look for in suspicious emails and more. And they often know that a lot of the emails that they are going to send out to their targets will just end up in the spam folder and the target is never even going to see them at all.
This means that the hacker has to become better at their job and find innovative and new methods that they can use to reach their targets and gain some access to a system that they want to be on. And one of the methods that can help with this is going to be social engineering.
Now, there are going to be a few ways that we will see the hacker work with this social engineering. They could use a variety of techniques to make it happen including email, snail mail, phone, and direct contact. And all of this is going to be done so that the hacker can gain some illegal access to the system, one that they have no right to be on in the first place. And sometimes the hacker, if they are successful with social engineering, is going to find a way to secretly install malicious software onto the system, allowing them to have the access they want to the computer of the target.
Criminals are often going to work with some of the social engineering tactics that are present because they find that it is a whole lot easier to reach the target and exploit their natural inclination to trust those around them, rather than the hacker having to find a new way to get on the system. For example, you will find that it is easier to fool someone into thinking they can trust you, and giving you the password than it is for you to go through and hack the password.
Keep in mind that security is going to be all about having the best idea of who and what you can trust. It is important to have a good idea of when you should, and when you should not take another person at their word, and when the person you are talking to at that time is actually who they say that they are as well. The same is going to be true when you finish up some online interactions as well, and you have to make sure that you are using a website that is a good one for your needs.
If you spend any time talking to a security professional, they may bring up the idea of the weakest link in the security chain, and often they will agree that this is going to be a human who is on the network who will accept another person or another scenario at face value. It doesn’t matter the number of security features that are found on that network, if the people using it go around it or are not on the lookout for what is going on, then the hacker will still be able to get on when they want.
This is going to bring us back to the ideas that we need to search when it comes to how the social engineering attack is going to work.. it could look like you are receiving an email or something else from a friend. If a criminal can hack or use social engineering on one person though, they may be able to get onto a friend’s email, steal the contact list, and then come after you. This is why you need to be careful about the things that you look over and accept online, even if it looks like it comes from someone you can trust.
Once the hacker can get onto the email account and they can make sure that it is under their control, they are going to work to send out emails to all of those contacts, or even leave a kind of message on the social media pages of the target if they would like. There are a lot of times when these messages are going to get to you because they will take advantage of your trust and your curiosity. Some of the other things that these messages can do from the hacker will include:
- Contain a link: This is usually something that you just have to check out right now because you are curious and it comes from a friend, which is why you are more likely to click on it. This link is often going to be infected with malware so the criminal can then take over another machine and collect that data, moving the malware to another location.
- Contain a download: This can include music, movies, pictures, documents, and more with some malicious software that is embedded int it. If you download, which you are likely to do since it looks like it comes from a friend, you are going to become infected. Now the criminal has gotten what they want and has access to not just your machine, but your contacts, social network accounts, email accounts, and more.
This, of course, is simply part of the beginning that you are going to see when any hacker is ready to go through the social engineering process to steal information. And you have to always be on the lookout for what is going to show up on your computer as well. While things like the phishing attacks are going to be rampant and short-lived and only need to work with a few people to make sure that they are successful, you will find that there are other methods out there that can cause more damage. You need to take the proper steps to make sure that you and your systems are as safe as possible.
Most of the methods that you can use to keep your system safe, and to make sure that a social engineering attack is not going to happen to you will include mostly rely on paying more attention to some of the details that are right there in front of you. Sometimes we get excited or too trusting, and we miss the signs. And this allows the hacker the advantage of getting ahold of all the information that they would like. With this in mind, some of the steps that you can take to keep yourself safe and to make sure that you are protected from some of the social engineerings that the hacker may try to use against you will include:
- Slow down: The spammer would like nothing more than for you to act first and think later. If the message has a huge sense of urgency, then this is a red flag.
- Research the facts: If something comes to you without you requesting it, then this looks like it could be spam as well. Always look up numbers and websites instead of clicking on the links in the email.
- Remember that issues with emails are high: Hackers, spammers, and social engineers are going to take control over email accounts, and the incidents of this keep growing. They are going to then be able to work with the trust of the contacts of that person. Even when the sender looks like it is someone you know if you are not expecting to get a link or an attachment from that friend, make sure to check out that information with your friend before downloading.
- Beware of any kind of download: If you do not know the sender personally and expect a file from them in the first place, then downloading what you see is going to be a mistake.
- Foreign offers are usually fake: If you get an email from a sweepstake or a lottery overseas, money from someone you have never heard from, or a request to transfer funds from a foreign country for a share of the money, this is always a scam.
You will always find that it is easier for a hacker of any kind to gain your trust and then work on the attack that they want, compared to doing something random. It may take them more time to work in this manner, but it is going to give them more of the results that they are looking for along the way as well. You have to always be careful about the communications that you are seeing, and be on the lookout to figure out whether the links, emails, information, and more that you are sending out and even receiving are going to be safe for you to use and that all of these are coming from the person you think they should.
Hackers like to work with social engineering because they know that they can gain the trust of another person without all of the work that some of the other methods take. If you are on the lookout though and learn to not trust everything just because it looks safe or is found in your inbox online, then you may be able to miss out on some of these attacks, and can close up the vulnerabilities that are on your system. The biggest weakness that is found on a computer network is the people, especially when it comes to social engineering, so question everything and be safe ahead of time to ensure that no one is going to be able to gather your information if you don’t want them to.