Have you ever received the notorious email from the Nigerian prince who promises you one million dollars in exchange for your social security number, date of birth, address, and credit card details? While this seems like a poorly disguised scam, you'd be surprised by how many people are actually fooled by this social engineering trick.
Social engineering refers to techniques used to manipulate victims into giving up their confidential information, usually through deceptive and fraudulent means. These attacks may come in the form of legitimate-looking emails, ‘urgent’ security alerts requiring you to take immediate action, or fake messages from your bank or other trustworthy organizations.
Cyber criminals will attempt to extract information through tempting offers or compelling stories that many people want to believe are true, despite the fact that they seem rather suspicious. In fact, some social engineering scams are so convincing that they can trick even the most tech-savvy people into disclosing their personal information.
Social engineering is a serious and ongoing threat for many organizations. The good news is preventing it from affecting your company isn’t difficult or expensive. Let’s take a look at some of the easiest ways to protect your business from social engineering attacks.
Educate your employees
If your employees aren't properly trained to recognize social engineering attacks, then they cannot possibly defend against them. Many organizations fail to educate their employees on social engineering tactics. Instead, they simply buy the biggest firewall and install the most cutting-edge antivirus programs. In many cases this is all for naught, since the human element still leaves room for hackers to find their way past your users and into your networks to extract sensitive information.
So how do you cultivate a culture of skepticism? By deploying security awareness training programs, which are by far one of the most effective countermeasures against social engineering attacks. Training your staff to understand social engineering tactics used by cyber criminals puts them in a much better position to recognize fraud when they see it, thereby mitigating the risk of data breaches.
Be wary of emails
Suspicious emails from foreign princes containing links to unheard-of websites should raise a red flag by now for most office employees. Modern social engineering attacks, however, are extremely cunning and have the potential to hoodwink even the most tech-savvy users, especially when hackers masquerade as someone in a position of authority.
Email is the #1 attack vector cyber criminals use to lure you into their trap, so you need to be extra cautious about suspicious emails, especially from unknown senders. The rule of thumb is to never divulge sensitive information such as your social security number, credit card details, or any other private information, because no reputable organization will ever request it through email.
Constantly update your systems
Training employees and exerting due diligence is only half of the equation. Make sure that you cover all your bases by updating all your operating systems, software, third-party applications, and security patches. Manually checking for updates for all of your programs may be tedious, but these updates contain vital security patches that will keep your devices and business data safe from social engineers. Of course, you could always hire a managed services provider to make absolutely certain your systems are up-to-date.
When it comes to social engineering, complete prevention is not possible and breaches are inevitable. No matter how strong your IT security is, your human end-users are still prone to clicking the wrong links or opening the wrong attachments. So the methods you employ to thwart social engineering attacks are really about minimizing damage and providing peace of mind that you’re trying your best to protect your business.
Putting security measures in place to defeat social engineering is easy, but getting your whole organization to jump on board is the real challenge. If you want to learn more about social engineering tactics and how to train your teams to be vigilant, get in touch with us today.