Social engineering, within the context of cyber security relates to the human factor within a business, whilst it may be possible to have the best possible perimeter security solutions, the human element can effectively render them useless should an employee unwittingly provide access to the internal network.
Regular social engineering assessments will especially benefit larger organisations who regularly interface with customers and have a large turnover of staff.
What is Social Engineering?
Social Engineering is a type of hacking that relies on human interaction to trick people into revealing sensitive information or causing an action that will compromise their security. Attackers use this technique to gain access to systems, data, or money.
For instance, a hacker may send an email saying that the user has made a recent purchase and needs to click on a link to confirm it. When users click on the link, it takes them to a fake web page that looks like a popular shopping website. However, when they enter their login credentials, hackers now have access to this private information.
Social engineering attacks follow a specific pattern: collecting background information of the victim, gaining their trust, and provoking them into taking an action that breaks security protocol.
Organizations that are most at risk for social engineering attacks are those with high levels of access to sensitive data or systems, such as healthcare organizations, financial institutions, and government agencies. However, any organization can be a target, and even the smallest companies can fall victim to a well-executed attack.
Commonly Used Social Engineering Techniques?
There are several social engineering techniques that are used to obtain sensitive information or gain access to restricted areas. Some of the most common methods include:
This type of technique might involve posing as a customer service representative and asking for account details or claiming to be from a research firm and conducting a survey.
Leaving malware-infected media (such as USB sticks or CDs) in public places or sending email attachments that appear to be benign but actually malicious. Once someone takes the bait and plugs in the USB stick or opens the attachment, their system becomes infected with malware.
Sending emails or creating websites that look legitimate but are actually designed to trick people into revealing personal information such as passwords or credit card numbers.
Phishing attacks often use spoofed email addresses and websites that mimic those of well-known companies or organizations.
Using voice over IP (VoIP) to make phone calls that appear to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank or government agency. The caller then attempts to trick the recipient into revealing personal information or transferring money to a fraudulent account.
Using short message service (SMS) to send text messages that appear to be from a legitimate source. The attacker then tries to get the recipient to click on a link that leads to a phishing website or download malware.
In this method the attacker follows someone through a door or barrier without proper authorization. The attacker then has access to the same area as the victim.
This type of social engineering involves going through bins or skips to find sensitive information that has been discarded. This information can be used to gain access to systems or accounts.
How to Protect from Social Engineering Attacks?
- Be aware of social engineering attacks and how they work.
- Do not give out personal information unless you are sure you are dealing with a legitimate organization or person.
- Be suspicious of unsolicited emails, phone calls, or visitors. Do not open attachments or links from unknown sources.
- Verify the identity of someone who contacts you before providing any personal information or access to systems.
- Keep your anti-virus and anti-malware software up to date and run regular scans on your computer.
- Report any suspicious activity or attempts to gain personal information to your IT department or security team.
What is a Social Engineering Assessment?
A social engineering assessment is a type of security testing that is used to assess the vulnerabilities of an organization to attacks that exploit human factors.
Social engineering penetration testing can be essential to an overall security program. This type of testing can help organizations identify and mitigate risks associated with social engineering attacks.
The pen tests generally involve methods that replicate the types of efforts real-world intruders use. A social engineering method known as phishing is often used to test employee vulnerability. Testers might send an email from someone in management asking the employee to open an attachment, provide sensitive information, or visit a website not approved by the company.
Or a tester might call employees pretending to be someone in IT, providing them with new passwords and telling them to change their current passwords.
Our team of experienced security professionals uses a variety of techniques to simulate real-world attacks and test an organization’s defences. We also provide comprehensive reporting that includes recommendations for improving security posture and raising employee awareness.
Our social engineering penetration testing team follows these steps:
- Define the scope of the project
- Identify the attack medium (e.g., phone call, email)
- Performing the penetration test
- Document findings and prepare a report detailing what we discovered
- Offer insights on how to improve your organization’s overall security program
How long does it take to perform a social engineering assessment?
There are numerous factors that influence the scoping of a social engineering assessment, such as:
- The size of the company
- Whether the client requires phishing, telephone, or physical social engineering
- The number of members within a company
How much is a social engineering assessment?
A social engineering assessment cost is calculated by the number of days a penetration tester will take to fulfil the agreed scope. The number of days can be determined by filling out our penetration testing scoping form or messaging us through our contact form to arrange a scoping call with one of our senior penetration testers.
What are the deliverables following a social engineering assessment?
Following completion of a social engineering assessment, the security consultants will produce a custom report that highlights any issues identified, their risk levels and recommendations regarding how to remedy them.