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Social Engineering Attacks & How to Spot Them

Created at February 23, 2021

As a reliable technology partner, it’s our job to help your business identify all types of attacks that pose a potential threat to you, your employees, and the information systems that you’ve been tasked to protect. Social engineering attacks are one of the most common types of threats that we regularly see and help businesses mitigate, and are at the core of nearly every cyber attack.

“Social engineering” is a term that you’ve probably heard at one time or another, but what does it mean? More importantly, how can you be sure that what you’re spotting is social engineering, and how can you make sure your business doesn’t become its next victim?

Let’s break it down.

What are social engineering attacks?

Simply put, social engineering attacks are a process by which cybercriminals (or “social engineers”) obtain control over some element of a computer system by manipulating, influencing, or deceiving its users.

How are they different?

Social engineering attacks target the individual user directly by taking advantage of a person’s inherently-human vulnerabilities. A person’s fear, trust, sympathy, greed, or indifference surrounding a subject all serve as perfect targets for a social engineer, especially when the subject in question is a particularly sensitive or timely one.

Some examples of a sensitive or timely subject that may be grounds for an attack include security compromise, fraud, COVID-19, or COVID-19 vaccine availability, just to name a few.

How can you spot them?

Here are some common examples of social engineering attacks.

  • Phishing
  • Spear Phishing
  • CEO Fraud
  • Ransomware
  • Extortion
  • Automation

Again, social engineering is designed to take advantage of what makes us human. The biggest red flags are elements of a potential attack that are clearly written or designed to fool someone or provoke an emotion. Here are some examples.

  • Sender: Is an email or message you received from a suspicious sender? This could either be someone you’ve never met or a name intentionally made to look very close to someone you do.
  • Subject: The subject line of a social engineering attack can also be an easy tell. Does the subject have anything to do with the contents of the message? If not, beware. Is the subject written in a language that provokes emotion? If so, proceed with caution.
  • Hyperlinks: Malicious links are the most dangerous element of an attack. On the other end of an otherwise innocent-looking link might be malware. Hovering over the links in a message to see where they lead is usually a dead giveaway of whether or not it’s a fraud.
  • Content: Is the main content of the message written in a very emotional way? Does it contain trigger words or include a call to action that invokes anxiety? Always beware of emotionally-charged and/or timely messages.

These are some of the most common ways to determine whether or not a message is legitimate. However, as social engineers become more and more clever, distinguishing malice from legitimate sources has become increasingly tricky, fooling even the most cautious users. So, if you’re supposed to be on the lookout for social engineering attacks but they’re continually changing shape, how can your business possibly stand a chance?

How can your business stand a chance against them?

Social engineering is not something to be taken lightly, and safeguarding against it must be a constant team effort. So, if you want to equip yourself with the knowledge that enables you to identify even the most clever attack attempts and place barriers between you and those that might signal those attacks, you need a partner like Blue Layer.

Blue Layer is a team of professionals that is familiar with every angle of strong cybersecurity, meaning we know what it takes to handle something like social engineering.

Click here to learn more about our cybersecurity services, cybersecurity awareness training, and how we can turn your users into human firewalls!

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