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How to Fight Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks

by Kyle on May 5, 2020

Social engineering and phishing attacks depend on information gleaned from human interaction to gain access to your network. Even with the latest cybersecurity solutions in place, an employee may still be tricked into handing over valuable information. One of the best ways of fighting these attacks is through preventive measures.

How Social Engineering Attacks Are Carried Out

While there are various forms of social engineering attacks, their cycles generally have four distinct phases:

1. Information gathering

Also known as footprinting, it involves the identification and surveillance of the intended target by attackers. Other than gathering online information, bad actors might perform related activities such as creating counterfeit New call-to-actionletterheads.

They’ll also be keen on learning your organization’s culture, including the target’s preferred lingo. The target might unwittingly disclose information that may appear harmless but ultimately be useful to the attacker.

2. Relationship development

Once they’ve gathered enough information, attackers then proceed to foster relationships with their targets or people close to them. They focus on building a feeling of trust and authenticity, which is later used to manipulate the target.

This manipulation can be achieved through various channels, such as email, phone, social media accounts, and even physical interaction. With time, the target will trust the attacker enough to fulfill their requests without any questions.

3. Exploitation

In this phase, the attacker manipulates the target into performing actions that compromise the organization’s network security. They include facilitating unauthorized disclosure of information, access, and use of company resources.

At this stage, attackers are confident enough to extract sensitive information such as account passwords.

4. Execution

The social engineer ultimately achieves their goal. The execution phase involves launching actual attacks against your network. Although it doesn’t necessarily require contact with the target, they might still need to engage in manipulative activities for the attack to be successful.

These actions include accessing the building so as to manually upload malware. They might need to present themselves as IT technicians or other members of staff that you or your employees are familiar with.

These phases are not always clearcut. Depending on the exact type of social engineering attack, some may have to be repeated to achieve the intended objective.

How to Combat Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks

Common social engineering attacks include tailgating, whaling, pretexting, quid pro quo, and baiting. Variations of phishing attacks are spear phishing, vishing, and smishing. Mitigation against them falls under two broad categories:

(a) Human-Based Approach

It involves the use of intuition and technical skills to determine whether activities are related to social engineering attacks. This approach further falls under two classifications:

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  • Policy and Auditing

These are rules developed with the aim of helping your employees to detect and prevent cybersecurity threats. A good example is a clear desk policy to stop sensitive information such as passwords from being seen by attackers.

Others include shredding used paper to prevent dumpster diving and service personnel identification procedures. Auditing tests the level of preparedness against or awareness about social engineering attacks.

  • Education, Training, and Awareness (ETA)

This approach is important, especially for new employees. Their education ensures they can uphold the various policies put in place to combat cyber threats.

Most phishing attacks could be prevented if employees knew the tell-tale signs. This is achievable by creating a culture of security awareness based on constant monitoring and updates.

(b) Technology-based approach

With attacks getting increasingly sophisticated, cybersecurity solutions must always be several steps ahead. Researchers are working on ways of identifying genuine personnel through advanced sensors.

Their signals will be able to pick out counterfeit uniforms, badges and other identification documents. This will make it harder for trespassers to gain access to your networks. Once fully deployed, this technology will pick out imposters, no matter how hard they try to blend in.

Other tech-based solutions include:

  • Biometrics

Already implemented in most security-conscious organizations, this technology works well against physical intruders. It identifies genuine personnel through features such as fingerprints, voice, and facial recognition.

As good as biometrics are, determined attackers can still bypass them through tailgating, piggybacking, and other social engineering tricks. AI systems solve this problem by being dynamic, adapting to new threats and evolving accordingly.

By incorporating machine learning, AI solutions can deal with multi-layer social engineering and phishing attacks without significant human input. They start with existing data, but their response evolves as they receive and analyze more data.

  • Honeypot

New call-to-actionA honeypot is a system that’s created specifically to combat social engineering and phishing attacks. It imitates a genuine network, which confuses bad actors into targeting it. Once they do so, their methods are studied and solutions to the threats identified.

You can create honeypots for computers, emails, websites, databases, networks, and even social media. Future attacks on your system will be blocked based on the data gathered from the honeypot.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive solution to social engineering and phishing attacks, Hummingbird Networks is your one-stop-shop. Our experience in the IT and cybersecurity sectors means we’re best placed to gauge your workforce preparedness. Our skills go beyond hardware and software to encompass entire systems. Contact us today for more information on our services, and customized solutions to your IT problems.

Topics: Network Security