How to Protect Against Social Engineering Attacks

How to protect against social engineering attacks

When it comes to cyber security, it’s not just viruses that you’ve got to watch out for. Unfortunately, cyber criminals have a wide array of tricks up their sleeves to make our lives more difficult. One of these tricks is called a social engineering attack.

This term refers to a number of malicious cyber activities that are carried out through human interaction, such as phishing, baiting or quid pro quo attacks. Read on as we explore how they work and how to prevent them.

How do social engineering attacks work?

The main objective of a social engineering attack is to gain the trust of its targets in order to access sensitive data or enter private computer systems. When it comes down to it, social engineering attacks are all about persuasion. In a social engineering attack, a cyber criminal will establish direct contact with their target – more often than not, via email or direct messaging on social media. The cyber criminal’s endgame is simple – they want their target to click on a malicious link or share sensitive information such as passwords or credit card details.

One common misconception of social engineering attacks is that only gullible people fall for them. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. From fake mirror websites to AI-based face generators, social engineering attacks are growing more and more complex by the minute. In some cases, hackers have even impersonated close relatives of their targets to gain their trust. If you think you’re too smart to fall for a social engineering attack, please think again.

Social engineering attacks are particularly dangerous because they rely on human error, making them extremely unpredictable. Whereas most kinds of cyber threats try to exploit security holes in a computer system, social engineering attacks prey on an often-unmanageable instrument – the human mind. The consequences of a successful social engineering attack can be disastrous. For example, cyber criminals can demand a ransom by threatening companies with publishing their log-in credentials or sensitive information on the dark web.

Although social engineering attacks are harder to predict than other kinds of malicious activities, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about them…

What are the best practices to prevent social engineering attacks?

With hackers thinking up new deceptive techniques every day, preventing social engineering attacks has never been as important as it is today. Because they consciously prey on human traits such as respect for authority or curiosity, these kinds of attacks are difficult to prevent. However, difficult doesn’t mean impossible. With the right tools, you can stop your employees from divulging sensitive information or enabling access to data networks. Let’s have a look at some of them…

1. Use multi-factor authentication

In this day and age, protecting your accounts and files with passwords isn’t enough. This is particularly true when it comes to social engineering attacks, as passwords can be obtained through phishing or mirrored websites. If you want to guarantee the security of your accounts, establishing multi-factor authentication is the way to go.

Also known as two-step verification, multi-factor authentication is a method by which a user is granted access to an application only after presenting two or more pieces of identity evidence. On top of entering their password, employees might be asked to install an authentication app on a trusted device such as a personal smartphone. By reinforcing the security of your sign-in processes, multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of protection to your defences. This is particularly useful when companies use services that are directly connected to the Internet such as cloud applications.

2. Threat intelligence data

In cyber security, taking a proactive approach goes a long way. One way of doing this is by making use of threat intelligence data. In a few words, threat intelligence is data that allows security teams to prevent cyber-attacks. A threat intelligence solution gathers data about existing threat actors and collects it in a database. This data is then analysed by an expert cyber security team such as CyberGuard’s Unit 12, who analyse the attackers’ capabilities and delineates their TTPs (Tactics, Techniques and Procedures).

Because they source their data from multiple intelligence sources, threat intelligence helps organisations stay up to date with current threats. They provide evidence-based knowledge and recommendations about cyber-attacks, comparing them to previous malicious activity to achieve a better course of action. This means that social engineering attacks are a lot easier to placate – even the most innovative and sophisticated ones.

3. Awareness training

The importance of regular training cannot be overstated when it comes to protecting against social engineering attacks. You will have heard time and again that education is a steppingstone to success – well, this is also true in cyber security. Training your employees to recognise social engineering attacks will drastically lower the possibility of malicious attempts being successful. After all, these kinds of attacks rely mostly on the end-users’ inexperience.

Even the most IT-savvy employee can benefit from a cyber security awareness course. A good course will always include a number of engaging methods and real-life examples that paint a clear picture of the risks posed by social engineering attacks. From simulated attacks to regular password checks, awareness training helps employees to understand and identify potential threats they may encounter in the digital workplace.

4. Implement next-gen anti-virus services

So far, we’ve outlined ways of preventing social engineering attacks. But what if one of these attacks is successful? This is obviously bad news, but it’s not the end of the world. With a managed anti-virus service such as VMware Carbon Black, all is not lost. Because it analyses endpoint behaviour and activity, a next-gen antivirus allows for a swifter and more efficient threat response. On top of that, it offers key insights into the behavioural patterns of attackers – meaning that it can even protect you from unprecedented threats.

Get your defences up and running now

You can never be too protected against a social engineering attack. The key to keeping cyber criminals at bay is establishing a proactive approach to cyber security. At CyberGuard, we can help you with that. From employee awareness training to vulnerability management services, we offer an array of services that will make your organisation less vulnerable to social engineering threats.

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