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10 Types of Social Engineering Attacks and their Examples

  • Hrithik Saini
  • Apr 07, 2022
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Human mistake is one of the most serious flaws in any cybersecurity plan. Social engineering attacks exploit this flaw by duping unwary users into compromising security and disclosing important information. 


To persuade you to trust them, social engineers employ a variety of psychological tricks, such as inducing a false sense of urgency and worrying to weaken your natural defenses. As a result, attackers may be able to compromise your physical or technical security to steal money or sensitive information. 


Criminals employ social engineering techniques to earn confidence because gaining access to your programme through social engineering is easier than finding a zero-day remote exploit. 


Cybercriminals employ a variety of social engineering approaches, which we explain here. But before we jump onto the different types of social engineering attacks, let’s understand what it looks like.



Symptoms of a Social Engineering Attack


  1. A Friend’s Email Message


If a hacker is capable of accessing or trying to manipulate one user's login information, they will still have access to that user's list of contacts, although most individuals use the same password for everything, they will almost certainly know that participant's social networking acquaintances as well.


Again when the hacker obtains access to the email account, they send messages to those individual's contacts or leave updates on all of your colleagues' social media sites, as well as the websites of their best mate's friends. The Link can:


  • Contain links that you'll have to confirm because the connection happens to come from a companion. After all, you're inquisitive, you'll believe the link and click–and be exploited by hackers. 


This will allow the fraudster to take control of your computer system, obtain your contacts information, and manipulate them just like you were deceived–and be perceived as a threat, allowing the criminal to take over your equipment, collect one's contacts information, and hoodwink them just like you have been deceived.


  • Contains harmful concentrating on technology in a photo, music, video, document, or another download. You are becoming infectious if you access what you are highly probable to do because you believe it is from a roommate. 


The thief already has access to the computer system, email address, social media accounts, and connections, and the invasion is spreading to anyone and everyone you know. And the list goes on and on.


2. Email from a reputable news source


Phishing attacks are a type of social engineering that imitates a credible source and creates a plausible situation for sending up username and password or other personally identifiable information. 


Banking institutions account for a significant number of unmasked firms, according to Webroot statistics, while social engineering assaults such as online fraud and pretexting account for 93 per cent of a significant cybersecurity incident. These messages can contain:


  • Your 'buddy' has been robbed, assaulted, and is hospitalized in country X. They want money from you for them to return home, and they will instruct you on how to pay the funds to the criminals.


  • Use intrusion scams that appear to be authentic. A phisher often sends an e-mail, instant chat, remark, or text message that looks to be from a well-known corporation, bank, school, or organization.


  • They'll ask you to give to a charity fundraising or another cause. With recommendations on how to get the money to the criminal, most likely. These phishing scams take advantage of people's goodwill and beg for help or support because of whatever calamity, reelection organization, or charity is currently on their minds.


Also Read | Cybersecurity Mesh



Types of Social Engineering Attacks

Types of Social Engineering Attacks:1. Phishing2. Spear Phishing3. Whaling4. Diversion Theft5. Baiting6. Pretexting7. Scareware Attack8. Watering Hole9. Piggybacking10. Business Email Compromise

Types of Social Engineering Attacks

To avoid being a victim of a social engineering attempt, you must first acknowledge how they work and how you could be victimized. The ten most prevalent forms of social engineering approaches to be wary of are listed below.


  1. Phishing


Phishing or Angler phishing is a newer type of phishing scam that uses fake customer service accounts to target social media users. They then attempt to contact dissatisfied clients, collecting personal information and account passwords in the process.



  1. Spear Phishing


It occurs when hackers use email or internet activity to scam a person, group, firm, or enterprise. Instead of installing malware on a user's computer to steal credentials, fraudsters frequently employ spear phishing to establish confidence and encourage victims to provide the credentials themselves.



  1. Whaling


Whaling is a type of phishing attack that particularly targets top-level company leaders and government agency heads. Whaling scams frequently use the email accounts of other high-ranking employees in the organization or agency to send urgent messages about a false emergency or a moment opportunity.



  1. Diversion Theft


Hackers use online distraction theft to fool customers into giving important information to the wrong person. The criminals generally carry out this crime by faking a member of the victim's company's email address. To do this, they may fake an accounting business or a financial institution.



  1. Baiting


Baiting is a type of social engineering assault in which people are convinced to provide personal information or data. They simply perform a false promise of receiving something of value for nothing. The trick might take the shape of a dangerous attachment with a tempting name.


Also Read | Cybersecurity Threats



  1. Pretexting


Pretexting is a type of social engineering hoax where another hacker creates a pretext or set of circumstances, pretending to be an IRS auditor—to deceive someone into exploring configuration personal and financial details like their security number. 


In this type of misuse, anyone could acquire access to your data by impersonating a client, warehouse worker, or vendor and winning your clients' trust.



  1. Scareware Attack


When a hacker adds harmful code to a website, a pop-up window with flashing colors and scary sounds appears. These pop-ups will then wrongly inform you that your device has been infected with a virus.


After that, you'll be advised to buy/download their security software or phone a computer specialist for assistance in recovering your PC. Scammers will either steal your credit card information or infect your computer with viruses at this point. They might be able to accomplish both.



  1. Watering Hole


In this sort of attack, the hacker infects a specific website that their victims visit frequently. The hacker can then collect their users' credentials and use them to enter the target's network once they connect to the site. They might even install a hidden computer virus that allows them to get access to the network.



  1. Piggybacking


Tailgating, also referred to as piggybacking, is a social engineering technique whereby an adversary follows a victim into a protected or prohibited location physically. 


So that their absence of approved identity goes unnoticed, the fraudster may claim they lost their access code or participate in a lively discussion with somebody on their way into the location.



  1. Business Email Compromise


BEC (business email compromise) is a cyberattack in which a hacker exploits businesses in order to deceive them. BEC is a developing problem that affects many types of businesses and sectors throughout the world. 


Email account compromise (EAC) is a subset of BEC that involves launching a BEC attack utilizing a genuine account within the business rather than a faked address. An EAC attack frequently uses a compromised account that was previously utilized in a successful phishing attempt.


Also Read | What is Attack Surface Management?


How to Protect Yourself from a Social Engineering Attack?


Because social engineering is such a serious danger to your company's security, you should make preventing and mitigating these activities a top priority in your cybersecurity plan. 


A holistic strategy to security, combining technological security measures with training and experience for personnel and executives, is implemented to avoid a social engineering attempt. Training is your first line of defence against such a social engineering attack. 


Everybody within your company should be able to recognise the most prevalent social engineering techniques and be conscious of the environmental triggers that fraudsters use to exploit individuals.


A thorough social engineering and security preparedness training programme would teach employees to:


  1. Scroll over through the receiver's identity to verify sure it reflects the email address, then examine the email address for spelling problems and other typical indicators and see whether it's been faked.


  1. Any unwanted message, specifically from somebody who they don't know, should be regarded with suspicion.


  1. Downloading questionable email attachments should be avoided.


  1. Hover your mouse over links in emails to ensure that the website URL is correct.


  1. Before sharing any top-secret information, authenticate someone's identification through a different communication method.


You should also conduct frequent testing after your information security program to make sure that the business does not get comfortable. 


Many education programs enable the implementation of replicated hacking assessments, in which phoney phishing scams will be sent to employees to see how many individuals fall for social engineering strategies. Those employees can then be retrained as necessary.


Don't Be a Victim


Although phishing attempts are common, close to the end, and only require a few individuals to fall for the hook in order to be effective, there really are ways to defend oneself. 


The majority of them don't need much more than paying attention to the facts across from you. To avoid getting phished, consider the following points.


  1. Slow Down


Remember to take it slowly. Phishing emails want you to respond quickly and then think about it afterwards. If the communication employs high-pressure sales methods or portrays a feeling of urgency, be suspicious; never allow their haste to affect your careful analysis.


  1. Have Knowledgable Facts


Any inappropriate communication should be treated with caution. If the email appears to be from a firm you use, conduct your own investigation. To discover the true company's website or contact information, use a search service or phone directories.


  1. Don’t Let a Link Be in Control


Maintain control by utilising a search engine to locate the website and ensure that you arrive where you intended. When you hover your mouse over a link in an email, the true URL appears at the bottom, but a skilled fake might still lead you astray.


  1. Email Hijacking is Rampant


Crooks, fraudsters, and social engineers are increasingly seizing control of people's online accounts. When they get access to a personal email, they feast on the contacts' confidence. 


Even when the correspondent looks to be a friend, if you aren't anticipating containing a link or document, double-check with your buddy before clicking or installing anything.


  1. Any Download Should be Avoided. 


If you do not even recognize the recipient and are expecting a file, downloading anything is a bad idea.


  1. Offers From Other Countries are Forged


Even when it's a scam whether you get an invitation from such an overseas jackpot or promotion, funds from an anonymous relative, or solicitations to send payments from a foreign nation in exchange for a piece of the money.


Also Read | Types of Cryptocurrency Scams



Examples of Social Engineering Real-World Attacks

Real-World Social Engineering Attacks Examples :1. Google & Facebook Spear Phishing Attack ($100M)2. Deepfake Attack on UK Energy Company3. Phishing Scam on Microsoft 3654. Collaboration Scam with Google Drive

Real-world Examples of Social Engineering Attacks


  1. Google & Facebook Spear Phishing Attack ($100 Million)


Rimasauskas and his colleagues created a phoney firm that pretended to be a computer manufacturer that collaborated with Google and Facebook. Rimsauskas also opened savings accounts in the name of the organization.


The con artists sent malicious emails to particular Google and Facebook workers, billing them for products and administrations that the manufacturers had legitimately given — but instructing them to pay big bucks into their fake accounts.


  1. Deepfake Attack on the UK Energy Company


The CEO of a UK energy company received a telephone call from somebody who appeared precisely like his employer in March 2019. The CEO was so duped by the conversation that he wired $243,000 to a "Hungarian supplier" - a bank details that really belonged to a fraudster.


  1. Phishing Scam on Microsoft 365


Security experts uncovered a Business Email Compromise (BEC) fraud in April 2021 that convinced the receiver to execute computer viruses on their machine.


  1. Collaboration Scam with Google Drive


An innovative yet straightforward social engineering scheme used Google Drive's reporting system in late 2020.


The phishing scam starts with the production of documentation with harmful links to a phishing site. The fraudster then tags their intended victim in a document comment, inviting them to participate.


Also Read | How AI Combats Cybercrime?

It's vital to establish a robust cybersecurity culture inside your firm if you want to stop a social engineering assault from happening again. 


If your employees perceive they've been the sufferer of a social engineering operation, they should feel free to report it, which they won't whether they're afraid of penalties or public disgrace. 


If these problems are identified as soon as they arise, the threat can be rapidly addressed before too much harm is done.

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