LWE – Social Engineering

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What Is Social Engineering? 

Social engineering is a form of cyberattack where hackers utilize psychological manipulation to trick unwitting victims into making security blunders and handing over their personal data. Social engineering is the manipulation of human emotions like greed, fear, rage, curiosity, etc., to get victims to click on harmful URLs or participate in physical tailgaters.
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The purpose of Social Engineering attackers is one of two things:

  • They want to disrupt a company’s operation by tampering with its data, or
  • They want to steal data and/or money.When posing as IT helpdesk staff, for example, an intruder could act as a user and ask for personal information such as a username and password.

The fact that so many individuals are willing to give over their personal information, especially if it appears to be coming from a reputable representative, is astonishing. Essentially, social engineering is the use of deception to persuade others to give up their personal information or data to gain access to it.

Some common and popular social engineering tactics are as follows:

  • Phishing. With this tactic, fake emails are sent to victims to encourage them to click on malicious links or download malicious attachments.
  • Scareware. Scareware is used to scare the victim into downloading malicious software.
  • Baiting. This tactic makes false promises to lure a victim into a trap.
  • Honeytrapping. The attacker sets up a fake online profile to build a relationship with the victim to trick them into parting with money or personal information.
  • Business email compromise. Business email compromise allows one to pretend to be someone trustworthy to gain a victim’s trust and get them to do something they wouldn’t normally do, such as transfer large sums of money to an unknown bank account (that belongs to the attacker).
  • Tailgating. Tailgating is a physical breach in which an attacker gains access to a physical facility by following an employee or asking them to grant them access (e.g., by holding the door or by swiping their electronic ID card).

Social Engineering Penetration Test process

Social engineering penetration testers systematically design and execute attacks. They gather information about the target through reconnaissance and open-source intelligence (OSINT). They select victims and use tactics similar to real attackers. Testers define the scope, conduct tests, document findings, and report risks to management. The pen test report includes impact assessment and recommendations for risk mitigation.

Fortifying the Frontline: LivewirExperts' Guide to Mastering Social Engineering Defense

Comprehensive Risk Assessment
Before starting the tests, it is essential to conduct a risk assessment to identify the most vulnerable areas and ensure that the test is exhaustive. This helps determine the correct approach and ensures that all relevant aspects of security are covered.
Detailed Reconnaissance
Conducting in-depth research on the target is essential before beginning the test. Gathering detailed information allows defining the scope of the test and ensures that it is executed accurately, respecting ethical and legal boundaries.
Regular Security Awareness Training
Providing ongoing security training to employees is crucial to strengthen the first line of defense against social engineering attacks. This includes training in phishing recognition, password policies, and incident response procedures.
Implementation of Access Controls
The use of IAM and MFA controls is vital to protect against unauthorized access. These measures help verify the identity of users and limit access only to those who have permission to access sensitive information.
Response and Remediation
After identifying vulnerabilities, it is imperative to address them and apply the necessary measures to close the gaps. This includes incident response planning, regular security assessments, and software and systems patching.

Benefits of Social Engineering Penetration Testing

Social engineering pen tests reveal specific data or assets that attackers may target, enabling organizations to prioritize protection efforts and allocate resources effectively.
By monitoring how employees react to social engineering tactics, companies can customize their security training programs. This helps employees better recognize and counteract social engineering attempts, thereby reducing the risk of successful attacks.
Social engineering penetration tests measure how well current security measures prevent social engineering threats. These tests mimic real attacks, helping organizations spot and improve weak areas in their security to better guard against such attacks.
Social engineering pen tests reveal critical areas for security enhancement. They guide the adoption of robust authentication, improved email filtering, and cutting-edge threat detection to proactively upgrade security in response to identified vulnerabilities and attack trends.
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