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Is your workforce safe from these masters of manipulation

It is inherent in human nature to have faith in those who are part of our inner community. Our minds are predisposed to detect signals and patterns in our surroundings that indicate that it is safe and even advantageous to place our trust in others. However, what if that apparently innocent perspective on the world is exploited?

The peril of manipulation is tangible in a society that benefits from data. Data thieves and fraudsters are keen to exploit our inclination to trust in order to access the most personal aspects of our lives.

Social engineering, which is the scientific method of manipulating individuals into engaging in or falling victim to a fraudulent activity, is the mechanism by which this type of deception is executed.

For example, an email that masquerades as a legitimate business correspondence may employ the official insignia of a company or the name of a genuine colleague to deceive the recipient into responding, clicking on a link, or downloading a malicious file.

The effectiveness of a socially engineered attack is not solely derived from the use of technology, but rather from the exploitation of our human nature.

Socially engineered attacks have been employed to deceive individuals into disclosing their login credentials and other personally identifiable information, thereby enabling hackers and fraudsters to access the database and pilfer personal and corporate data.

A recent study conducted by GetApp revealed that only 27% of organizations provide their employees with training on how to identify socially engineered attacks, despite the potential dangers of these security lapses.

“Researchers from GetApp suggest that nearly 75% of businesses may be allowing their employees to contend with sophisticated manipulators.” “Employees must be instructed on how to identify social engineering techniques that are intended to exploit human nature in order to gain access to confidential company data.”

What is the reason for the effectiveness of socially engineered cyberattacks?

A specific individual, group, or company is the target of social engineering tactics, which employ psychological techniques to entice actors to disclose information or participate in an attack without their knowledge.

According to GetApp researchers, social engineers conduct research prior to initiating assaults such as “spear phishing” or business email compromise.

“This encompasses the utilization of public records, Google Maps, corporate websites, and social media to conduct background research,” they stated. “Scammers are capable of conducting their schemes inconspicuously, establishing a rapport with their targets, and putting employees at ease with this knowledge.”

The sophistication of social engineering attacks is derived from their ability to exploit both human nature and the vulnerabilities of a security system. The following components are included:

The propensity to assist others
Conflict avoidance
Willingness to adhere to instructions
A conviction in the veracity of others (as evidenced by instances of pretexting or the act of creating a scenario or identity)
Common forms of manipulation through social engineering| How do cybercriminals employ social engineering techniques to launch attacks? The most prevalent forms of manipulation were identified by security specialists at Infosec:

1. Spear phishing and phishing

Attackers employ email or direct messaging to persuade recipients to click on a link, download a malicious file, or enter their credentials into a fictitious portal, with the sole objective of stealing their information. Phishing messages frequently induce recipients to take action by emphasizing the urgency of the situation.

In spear phishing, attackers conduct a more thorough examination of their target in order to gather specific information about them, including the target’s place of employment, the identities of their co-workers or family members, and even their community affiliations.

To persuade the recipient that the sender is a legitimate contact, fraudsters employ these distinctive details about a person’s professional and personal life to compose messages that are highly targeted. This level of detail increases the difficulty for recipients to identify an attack.

2. Attack on whales

A whaling attack, similar to spear phishing, meticulously investigates the target’s identify in both the online and physical world. However, this time, the victim is typically a prominent figure in the organization or community, such as a CEO or HR head–in other words, a “big fish.”

3. Watering opening

In contrast, a watering hole attack involves the manipulation of the websites that victims are most likely to access. Attackers analyze the online activity of their intended victim before devising a method to infiltrate the website with a malicious code. Trojan software, which is malicious software that is disguised as legitimate, will be automatically downloaded to the target’s computer without their knowledge once they access the site. Subsequently, attackers obtain access to the target’s files and may even conduct surveillance.

4. Pretexting

Pretexting is not distinguishable from the strategies implemented by conventional deception artists. It is the process by which an attacker establishes a fictitious identity or scenario in order to entice the victim into their trap and eventually earn their trust. The victim unknowingly collaborates with the assailant in infiltrating a company’s security system by believing the attacker. For instance, an assailant may pose as a third-party consultant who collaborates closely with the management, but their sole objective is to exploit the team.

5. Enticement

In baiting, assailants employ the power of persuasion to entice victims to participate. In order to persuade potential victims to disclose user data, they will provide them with exclusive promotions and discounts, such as a complimentary software upgrade. After the procedure is finished, the attacker installs malware on the victim’s computer to begin accessing files and stealing data.