The weakest point of any company’s cybersecurity infrastructure is the people who have access to the network. This is because employees that have not been properly trained to identify cybersecurity threats can easily fall victim to social engineering attacks. Malicious actors spend a lot of time and effort making these attacks as effective as possible, so each employee should be adequately trained on how to spot a social engineering attack and the steps they need to take to stop and report it. Here we want to outline what a social engineering attack is and the steps your small business can make to begin preventing them!
What is Social Engineering in Cybersecurity?
In its broadest sense, a social engineering attack involves a malicious actor directly interacting with a person who can grant them information on or access to a network. The bad actor will try their best to take advantage of someone’s kindness, inattentiveness, or laziness to get ahold of information they should not have. This attack strategy can range from simply calling your company’s IT help desk and pretending to be an employee or gaining the trust of an employee over a long period of time in order to access information and company knowledge they shouldn’t have.
How is Social Engineering Used in Attacks?
What makes social engineering attacks useful to malicious actors is that they can take on a variety of forms and change rapidly to suit the targeted company. Everyone is aware of phishing emails, and the urgency of a password reset request is a social engineering component to that attack. Another common form this attack strategy takes involves impersonating a coworker over a messaging system and asking for information directly. If malicious actors don’t have access to a compromised account, they may even create a fake one that looks close enough to fool an inattentive employee. In short, social engineering attacks do not fall into a single archetype or set of strategies, and this is exactly what makes them dangerous.
The best way to prevent social engineering attacks is training employees to spot odd behavior or strange activity that they encounter. While most social engineering attacks are hard to differentiate from genuine events, a little hesitation from a suspicious employee can go a long way. You should work with your managed service provider (MSP) to find a strong training solution that works for your company. In addition to this, the company’s cybersecurity infrastructure should be up to date and provide layered protection so that if an attack is successful, it can be responded to and prevented with little damage to the network.
Social engineering attacks can be tricky to identify because they leverage avenues of attack that make it hard to identify the attacker as malicious or they take advantage of social norms and human kindness. Because of their flexibility, social engineering attacks can be a component of other attacks or be used to gather information on a business before launching a larger campaign. Every small business should make it a priority to work with their MSP to find the best training material and cybersecurity tools that equip employees with the skills they need to identify social engineering attacks and help the network respond to potentially successful attacks.
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