By Anas Baig, product manager and cyber security expert with Securiti.
A social engineering attack is a type of cyber attack in which a threat actor attempts to manipulate people into performing certain actions or divulging confidential information, such as passwords and credit card details. These attacks often target unsuspecting users who do not realize their complicity until it is too late.
These types of attacks can come in many different forms, such as phishing emails, malicious links sent via social media platforms, or even phone calls trying to get you to reveal confidential information.
As technology evolves, so do the methods used by attackers in social engineering attempts. Attacks have become increasingly sophisticated over time. Attackers are now able to tailor their attacks to specific individuals, use more persuasive language than ever before, and create seemingly authentic websites to fool victims. In addition, attackers often use social engineering techniques to gain access to networks and systems, allowing them to steal or manipulate sensitive data.
Multi-pronged social engineering attacks
Multi-pronged attacks are social engineering threats that use more than one medium of communication through which to try and trick victims. For example, an attacker may send a victim a link to a malicious website via email and then follow up with a phone call.
Therefore, it is important to be able to verify email addresses and research phone numbers before providing any kind of sensitive or potentially compromising information.
By using multiple mediums of communication, attackers can increase their chances of success, as victims will have more ways to fall for the scam.
Multi-pronged social engineering attacks can also be used to gain access to more sensitive information, as attackers often build on previous conversations or messages. For example, an attacker might start off with a general inquiry about a company’s security protocols and then follow up with a request for usernames and passwords.
Evolution of the language used in social engineering attacks
Attackers have become increasingly adept at using language that is convincing and very difficult to categorize as deceptive, making it even more difficult for victims to identify these attempts as malicious. Attackers are becoming more creative with their use of language and are leveraging advanced technology to help them better craft the perfect message.
For example, attackers will often use terms such as ‘urgent’ or ‘immediate action required’ to try and persuade someone into taking an action they normally wouldn’t. In addition, attackers may also use language that appeals to a victim’s emotions in order to gain their trust.
The automation of social engineering attacks
Attackers are leveraging advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate parts of an attack, making them much more efficient and effective than previously. For example, attackers can now use automated bots to send out thousands of phishing emails quickly and easily, making it much harder for victims to detect the malicious nature of the message.
This means that attackers are now able to target more victims, as well as tailor their attacks to a specific individual or organization. As these types of automation technologies become more advanced, so do the sophistication and complexity of social engineering attacks.
The use of deepfakes
The use of deepfake technology is becoming increasingly common in social engineering attacks, allowing attackers to create convincing audio and video replicas of an individual that are very difficult to detect. The use of deepfakes can help attackers gain access to confidential information, as victims may be fooled into believing that they are speaking with a real person.
Deepfakes are particularly insidious because the technology used to produce convincing, high-level fakes is becoming increasingly accessible and easier to use. As a result, attackers are now able to create convincing deepfakes with minimal effort, allowing them to target more victims more efficiently.
The use of ransomware
Ransomware is playing a growing role in social engineering attacks in the form of ransomware phishing attacks. In this type of attack, the attacker sends a victim an email with a malicious attachment or link that will download ransomware to the victim’s device after being opened.
Once installed, the ransomware then locks up important files and data until a ransom is paid, leaving the victim no choice but to pay up in order to regain access to their data. Ransomware is difficult to detect, as attackers are often able to disguise the malicious code in seemingly harmless emails and documents, making it easy for victims to fall victim.
The use of cross-site scripting
Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks are becoming increasingly common within social engineering attacks, as attackers are using this type of attack to gain access to a victim’s personal information. In an XSS attack, the attacker injects malicious code into a website or web application that is then executed on the victim’s computer when they visit the site.
This type of attack can be used to gain access to personal information such as passwords and credit card numbers, and can be used to install malware on the victim’s device. As XSS attacks become more advanced, attackers are able to carry out these types of attacks with greater ease, making it even more difficult for victims to identify and protect themselves against them.
The use of social media manipulation
Finally, attackers are beginning to use social media platforms as a tool for social engineering attacks. Attackers can use these platforms to create fake accounts that appear legitimate in order to gain access to a victim’s personal information or to spread disinformation.
They can also manipulate conversations and spread false information in order to influence public opinion or target a specific individual or group of people. As social media platforms become increasingly popular, attackers are finding new and creative ways to use them for malicious purposes.
Overall, the sophistication and complexity of social engineering attacks is growing at an alarming rate. By understanding these threats and the techniques used by attackers, organizations can better protect themselves against potential attacks. It is essential that organizations stay up-to-date concerning the latest trends and technologies to ensure that their systems remain secure against these increasingly sophisticated threats.
With the proper security protocols in place, organizations can better protect themselves from social engineering attacks and other forms of cyber crime.
For more insights from Anas Baig, please see CyberTalk.org’s past coverage. Lastly, to receive more cutting-edge cyber security news, best practices and analyses, please sign up for the CyberTalk.org newsletter.