A common misconception is that hacking only occurs by downloading malicious software. While this is a regular method used by hackers, hacking extends far beyond this familiar scheme. Cybercriminals often use targeted psychological tactics and launch attacks in person, over the phone, through email, and much more.
These strategies are called social engineering attacks, and they can be just as dangerous as traditional cyberattacks if you don’t know what signs to look for or how to protect your organization against them.
We’re here to help you get up to speed on the most common types of social engineering attacks to look out for and how you can take steps to prevent them.
3 Common Types of Social Engineering Attacks
1. Email, Call, and Text Message Phishing
Phishing has increased by 61% since last fall (and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon), making it vital to establish the right cybersecurity measures to help protect against this type of social engineering attack.
Here are the most common types of phishing attacks and steps you can take to mitigate them.
Email phishing is one of the most popular online scams, designed to trick individuals into sharing sensitive information through the delivery of spam messages.
In fact, emails are where many of the most dangerous hackers find their prize; between March and June of 2023, over 120,000 phishing emails were launched using a phishing-as-a-service (PaaS) toolkit titled EvilProxy. These attacks targeted, then compromised, 9%, 17%, and 39% of CEO, CFO, and C-level executives’ email accounts, respectively.
Call and Text Message Phishing
Many types of social engineering attacks involve some form of impersonation when phishing.
Smishing (SMS phishing): Text messages from hackers asking you to provide personal information, click a link, and/or send payments. Consumers reported losing $330 million to text message scams in 2022, nearly double that of the previous year.
Vishing (voice phishing through phone calls or voicemails): Calls and voicemail messages that claim you need to call back and make a payment or provide personal information. An example is a hacker pretending to be someone from your bank or business asking you to share sensitive information.
Pretexting: Texts from a hacker pretending to be someone of authority or financial significance, such as the IRS, the police, or a bank. According to the FTC, bank impersonation is the most reported text message scam.
These are all common types of social engineering attacks hackers use to access login credentials, financial information, or personal data that you need to be aware of.
Mitigating Phishing Attacks
To help prevent phishing attacks from occurring, do not:
- Click links or download attachments from suspicious emails.
- Leave your devices outdated — updates often come with new security features to help protect against cyberattacks.
- Dismiss multi-factor authentication.
- Disregard getting help from an experienced cybersecurity vendor.
Tailgating occurs when a hacker attempts to physically infiltrate your company.
They can achieve this in multiple ways, but a few of the most common methods hackers use to access restricted areas in your company are:
- Claiming they forgot their access code.
- Creating a diversion so they aren’t seen entering the area.
- Stealing items from workers that grant them access.
- Claiming they’re delivering a package.
- Holding a lot of items in their arms to persuade you to open a door for them.
Mitigating Tailgating Attacks
To help protect against tailgating attacks, consider implementing the following:
- Biometric scanners.
- Security training for your employees.
- Advanced video surveillance systems.
3. Scareware Attacks
Scareware is when a hacker manipulates their target into downloading malicious software through a variety of psychological tactics.
One of the most common types of social engineering attacks that use scareware involves deploying pop-ups that falsely claim your device has been infected. The pop-up will then prompt you to download the hacker’s software to “remove the infection,” when in reality, the “cure” is actually a poison pill.
Mitigating Scareware Attacks
To help prevent scareware from threatening your systems:
- Do not click on pop-ups on your devices.
- Regularly update your devices, apps, and browsers.
- Have a reputable cybersecurity vendor deploy network safety measures.
Get the Best Protection Against All Types of Social Engineering Attacks
While it helps to install antimalware and physical security measures to defend against social engineering attacks, the most comprehensive—and easiest— method is to work with a knowledgeable cybersecurity vendor who has your best interests in mind.
That’s where Tec-Refresh can help. Tec-Refresh can help protect your organization’s data with proven security measures, from penetration testing services that utilize social engineering tactics to assessments and reporting.
Ready to learn more? Download our complimentary brochure.