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The rise in the adoption of the internet is directly proportional to the rise in cybersecurity attacks. We feel that just by having layers of firewall or browsing over ‘https’, where ‘s’ stands for secure will indeed secure us from all those malware from attacking our systems. We also feel safe by having Google secure all our credentials, just because it is Google! All this is a myth. In fact, the biggest loophole in security breakouts is us, humans!

It is innate human nature to help out those in need or get curious over a sale or a competition that can fetch a huge sum of money. These and many other factors act as a bait using which hackers or attackers find out ways to fish account credentials. These ways lead to social engineering attacks, which if unnoticed can highly affect one’s security online.

Common Social Engineering Attacks

Phishing

This method is analogous to fishing where the bait is laid to attract fishes. Similarly, here the bait are emails sent out to customers with a malicious attachment or a clickable link. These emails are sent across to millions of users who are tricked to log into fake versions of popular websites, for instance, IBM, Microsoft, and so on.

The main aim of a phishing attack is to gain the login information for instance passwords, bank account information, and so on. However, some attacks might be targeted at specific people or organizations. Such a targeted phishing is known as spear phishing.

Spear phishing is a targeted phishing attack where the attackers craft a message for a specific individual. Once the target is identified, for instance, a manager of a renowned firm, via browsing his/her profile on social media sites such as Twitter or LinkedIn. The attacker then creates a spoof email address, which makes the manager believe that it’s from his/her higher authority. The mail may comprise of questions on important credentials, which should be confidential among managers and the higher authorities.

Ads

Often while browsing the web, users encounter flash advertisements asking them permissions to allow a blocked cookie. However, these pop-ups can be, at times, malicious. Sometimes, these malicious ads attack the user’s browser and get them redirected to another new domain. While being in the new domain the browser window can’t be closed. In another case, instead of redirection to a new site, the malicious site appears on the current page, using an iframe in HTML.

After any one of the two scenarios is successful, the attacker tries to trick the user to download a fake Flash update, prompting them to fill up information on a phishing form, or claiming that their system is affected with a malware.

Lost USB Drive

What would you do if you find a USB drive stranded next to a photocopy machine or near the water cooler? You would insert it into your system to find out who really the owner is. Most of us fall prey to such social help, while this is what could result into USB baiting.

A social engineering attack where hackers load malicious file within the USB drive and drop it near a crowded place or library. The USB baiting also appeared in the famous American show Mr. Robot in 2016. Here, the USB key simply needed a fraction of seconds to start off using HID spoofing to gather FBI passwords.
A similar flash drive attack actually took place in 2008 when an infected flash drive was plugged into a US military laptop situated in the middle east. The drive caused a digital breach within the foreign intelligence agency.

How can you protect yourself from these attacks?

For organizations to avoid making such huge mistakes, which can lead to huge financial loss, the employees should be given a good training program. In this training program employees can be made aware of the different kinds of social engineering attacks and the channels via which attackers can approach.

One way could be giving them a hands-on experience by putting them into the attacker’s shoes and letting them perform an attack. Tools such as Kali Linux could be used in order to find out ways and techniques in which hackers think and how to safeguard individual or organizational information.

The following video will help you in learning how a social engineering attack works. The author has made use of Kali Linux to better explain the attack practically.

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