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Social Engineering

Social Engineering attacks and their prevention techniques

The modern world is very complicated. Internet usage has skyrocketed in the last decade, and there are more people on the internet than ever before. Whether it’s social media, shopping or any other activity, nearly everyone’s hopped onto the web at one point or another. And who can blame them? It’s so quick and easy these days to get yourself connected, that even your elderly gran could find her way onto Facebook or Amazon.

Of course, with all of these people who connect with honest and pure intentions of shopping or finding their friends, you do get people who use the internet for more nefarious purposes. Social engineering is one way in which this kind of individuals would seek to take personal information from you for their gain. To try and prevent this from happening, we’re going to be taking a look at the threat of social engineering, and how we can prevent it.





What Is Social Engineering?



First things first. Let’s take a look at what social engineering is so that we can better understand the threats that it brings. Social engineering is where people use psychological manipulation to extract sensitive and personal information from people. It’s similar to the conventional ‘con’ but differs in the sense that it’s often a much more complex set of tricks and deceptions, and often can be much more damaging on a larger scale, as it is not limited to one person. 

The issue which people face with social engineering is that the individual or group who is orchestrating the scheme are trained to implement the virus, malware or hack without anyone knowing that it’s even there.

With the ‘con’ counterpart, people are approached by an individual and offered some deal or product which they’re assured will make them a good financial return. While most of us are educated enough to be naturally suspicious of this kind of event, social engineering is a much more subtle way of obtaining information or making people perform actions, which is why it can be infinitely more dangerous. 



But Why Is It A Threat?



What you will find with social engineering is that it can be a very good way for people to get personal information without ever seeming suspicious. This is because people disguise malicious content, such as virus or malware within something which is not immediately dangerous. For example, if someone can get access to a website, and they can alter the coding of the site, then they can embed a virus into the site, which only activates when people manage to find their way to a particular part of their favourite sites. This means that it can be incredibly difficult to try and track, and even more dangerous when you realise that people will subtly add things to the site which encourage you to go that place.



Another way that social engineering can be a serious threat is when people attempt to target large corporations without even putting a virus on the website. A common way for people to gain access to companies is to leave software lying around in public that looks to be important and official company property. An employee might pick up and give it to their manager, a visitor might hand it in when they found it, but in either instance, people are working on the human need to either do good or satiate curiosity. When the device is inserted into a computer, the virus contained within it bypasses security systems and begins stealing information. Obviously, the damage this can inflict upon a company is very severe. 



How Do We Prevent Social Engineering?



Thankfully, people are fairly aware that social engineering is a common phenomenon, and thus many larger companies and on-the-ball individuals will have systems and countermeasures put into place. Training employees to recognise potentially dangerous offers, codes or files left lying around will help to ensure that they’re not picked up and used without checking their legitimacy.

In some cases, storing information in a secure place and having security around it will help to protect customer information, both digital copies and physical ones. You’ll also do a very good job of protecting customer information and keeping your site secure by regularly checking for viruses or alterations to the code of the site. This may seem like a very lengthy process for smaller businesses, but it’s a great way to make sure that your site is secure. If you know what the original code looks like and you come across alterations, then you’ll know that they’re not part of your website and you can remove them, thus keeping customers safe. Another way that people can ensure that their sites are free of social engineering is to perform random and frequent tests of the security systems and then deal with anything which is identified as being a threat to security.



Overall, the threats generated by social engineering are vast, and preventing them involves being engaged with modern technology and understanding how these individuals attempt to bypass security measures. Social engineering is such a threatening concept because it’s just so unpredictable. The methods we discussed here are only a few, with a whole multitude of different techniques at their disposal. This makes it difficult for companies to be completely protected, and it is worth noting that no system is entirely foolproof. However, you can prevent a lot of issues by being vigilant. Have a team of people who are always looking for new ways to improve the system, or take the time yourself to get up to date with social engineering tactics and how to combat them.

Your system can easily be upgraded and improved, and things can constantly be worked on to ensure that they continue to stay safe and accessible. One of the good things about social engineering as a topic is that while it may continue to evolve, it’s also true that we will too. People will get better at identifying the threats and will be able to make them less of an issue for customers. 


Jack K.

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