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THE DARK ART OF SOCIAL ENGINEERING

Updated: Jan 24

How do cyber attackers exploit human behavior?



SOCIAL ENGINEERING IN A FEW WORDS : WHAT IS THE MAJOR DIFFERENCE WITH TRADITIONAL HACKING?  


Unlike traditional hacking practices, which emphasize a purely technical aspect by exploiting vulnerabilities present in computer systems, social engineering exploits human and psychological vulnerabilities. This hacking practice aims to target the users of these targeted computer systems to obtain information allowing access to these systems instead of going through the decryption of technical vulnerabilities. The idea is to push users to share confidential information enabling them to infiltrate the structures (banking data, access codes, login credentials, etc.) through tricks and manipulation. In the digital age, attackers widely use these sophisticated techniques, one of the most well-known being the phishing attack. Attackers now use various methods to gain access to sensitive information or systems without using their technical skills.


IMPACT FOR BUSINESSES & INDIVIDUALS


It would be wrong to think these attacks are limited to isolated individuals. Organizations are highly vulnerable to social engineering attacks, which can have serious consequences, including financial loss, reputational damage, and legal liability. Risks targeting businesses include: 


  • Data breaches: social engineering attacks can lead to data breaches, where sensitive company information, customer data, or intellectual property is compromised. This situation can result in a loss of customer trust.

  • Financial fraud: Attackers use social engineering to gain access to economic systems, manipulate employees into making unauthorized transactions, or trick individuals into revealing financial credentials. 

  • Network and system compromise: Attackers may trick employees into installing certain types of malware or allowing access to sensitive systems. This situation can lead to unauthorized access, data manipulation, or complete network compromise, resulting in operational disruptions and financial damage.

  • Corporate email compromise (BEC): Spear phishing, for example, or identity theft, is often used in BEC attacks. Attackers manipulate employees into transferring funds, sharing confidential information, or initiating fraudulent transactions.

  • Network and system compromise: Attackers may trick employees into installing certain types of malware or allowing access to sensitive systems. This situation can lead to unauthorized access, data manipulation, or complete network compromise, resulting in operational disruptions and financial damage.

  • Corporate email compromise (BEC): Spear phishing, for example, or identity theft, is often used in BEC attacks. Attackers manipulate employees into transferring funds, sharing confidential information, or initiating fraudulent transactions.

  • Reputational damage: Successful social engineering attacks can damage a company's reputation. Customers may lose trust if their personal information is compromised, resulting in a loss of business.Successful social engineering attacks can damage a company's reputation. Customers may lose trust if their personal information is compromised, resulting in a loss of business.

  • Legal and Regulatory Consequences: Depending on the industry and jurisdiction, companies may face legal and regulatory consequences if they fail to protect customer data or are involved in fraudulent activities resulting from social engineering attacks.



The principles and tactics used in social engineering 


  • Framing: Presenting information in a way that influences perception; for example, using fear or uncertainty can manipulate individuals to comply with the attacker's demands.


  • Sympathy: Establishing a personal connection or exploiting emotions can make individuals more likely to trust an attacker, leading them to disclose sensitive information or grant access.


  • Social proof: People are more likely to take specific actions if they believe others have already done so, which attackers can exploit by claiming that many others have granted their requests.


  • Authority Bias: Humans naturally tend to follow and trust authority figures, which attackers can exploit by posing as someone of power or authority.


  • Scarcity: Creating a sense of urgency or scarcity can lead individuals to take risks or provide sensitive information to obtain something perceived as rare or valuable.


  • Reciprocity: Humans feel obligated to reciprocate when someone does something for them, which attackers can take advantage of by offering something in exchange for sensitive information or access

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