Digital transformation, digital technology usage from what it was to how it is being adopted today by enterprises, and individuals are an almost essential commodity. New applications in this mobile-first cloud-first era are exposing individuals, and organizations to potential cyber security vulnerabilities that can be exploited through social engineering attacks without much of sophistication.
Social engineering attacks are real and are considered major threats to organizations of every size. They are of manipulation techniques that exploit human error to gain access to something sensitive. They employ deception, manipulation, intimidation, etc to exploit the human element, or users, of target information assets in the cyber context. Generally, these attacks are successful because individuals may be persuaded to take an action by strong incentives like money, sentiment, fame, or fear, as well as by simple deceit. These attacks pose a serious threat to cybersecurity because users can still be tricked into revealing their credentials or executing a malicious action for an attacker regardless of how robust the technical security infrastructure is. There have been many major incidents in the industry notably – Target, Yahoo, Zoom, RSA, Marriott, Twilio, and so on breaches where social engineering was employed to successfully exploit. Eventually leading to a major business impact.
Here are a few major techniques and types that can come under social engineering attacks – Phishing, Spear Phishing, Whaling, Vishing, Smishing, BEC, DSD, Angular Phishing, Baiting, Quid Pro Quo, Impersonating, Shoulder Surfing, Eavesdropping, Desk Sniffing, Dumpster Diving, Pharming, Tailgating, Credential Harvesting, Water Hole Attacking, URL Hijacking/ TypoSqating, Pretexting, Popup Windows, Reverse Social Engg, Weaponized QRCodeing, Robocalls, Deep fakes, Supply chain attacks.
Countering social engineering attacks through solely by using technology is not an adequate solution for any organization or individual. To defend, the security approach for the human factor is to improve security through awareness and practice. At the organizational level, a methodical approach to continuously identifying, train vulnerable employees can significantly reduce cybersecurity social engineering threats. This involves continuous assessment of the workforce’s security awareness, maintaining efficient means of communication – regarding the latest threats, and attack tactics in addition to routine system updates, and the underlying appropriate security infrastructure.
Organizations must adopt a continuous approach to people, processes, and technology with their Information security program. It necessitates a must training, awareness, and strict policy control programs that is made relevant in every aspect of the organization along with applicable technology controls and the infrastructure making it a PEOPLE, PROCESS, TECHNOLOGY aspect.
In simple summary – employee & user awareness, multi-factor authentication, monitoring the user & entity behavior, strict identity and access controls, patching, data classification, and leak protection, and zero-trust network access(ZTNA) are a few must-have essential strategies. Organizations must implement these strategies through a proactive, continuous approach for better protection against social engineering attacks.