Introduction to Social Engineering- Part II

Common Social Engineering Techniques:

Social engineering techniques can take many forms. The following is the list of the commonly used techniques.

  • Tailgating: This technique involves following users behind as they enter restricted areas. As a human courtesy, the user is most likely to let the social engineer inside the restricted area.
  • Phishing: This technique uses trickery and deceit to obtain private data from users. The social engineer may try to impersonate a genuine website such as yahoo, facebook, twitter, and then ask the unsuspecting user to confirm their account name and password. This technique could also be used to get credit card information or any other valuable personal data.
  • Intimidating Circumstances: People tend to avoid people who intimidate others around them. Using this technique, the attacker may pretend to have a heated argument on phone or with an accomplice in the scheme. The attacker may then ask users for information which would be used to compromise the security of the user’s system. The users are most likely give the correct answers just to avoid been checked at a security check points.
  • Familiarity Exploit: Users are less suspicious of people they are familiar with. An attacker can familiarize him/herself with the users of the target system prior to the social engineering attack. The attacker may interact with users during meals, when users are smoking, he/she may join, on social events, etc. This makes the attacker familiar to the users. Let’s suppose that the user works into a building that requires an access code or card to gain access, the attacker may follow the users as they enter such places. The users are most like to hold the door open for the attacker to go in as they are familiar with them. The attacker can also ask for answers to questions such as where you met your spouse, the name of your high school English teacher, etc. The users are most likely to reveal answers as they trust the familiar face. This information could be used to hack email accounts and other accounts that ask similar questions if one forgets their passwords.
  • Exploiting human curiosity: Using this technique, the social engineer may deliberately drop a virus infected flash disk in an area where the users can easily pick it up. The user will most likely plug the flash disk into the computer. The flash disk may auto run the virus or the user may be tempted to open a file with a name such as Employees Revaluation Report 2013.docx which may actually be an infected file.

Exploiting human greed: Using this technique, the social engineer may lure the user with promises of making a lot of money online by filling in a form and confirm their details using credit card details etc.

Social Engineering Counter Measures

Most techniques employed by social engineers involve manipulating human biases. To counter such techniques, an organization can;-

  • To counter the familiarity exploit, the users must be trained to not substitute familiarity with security measures. Even the people that they are familiar with must prove that they have the authorization to access certain areas and information.
  • To counter intimidating circumstances attacks, users must be trained to identify social engineering techniques that fish for sensitive information and politely say no.
  •  To counterphishing techniques, most sites such as yahoo use secure
    connections to encrypt data and prove that they are who they claim to be. Checking
    the URL may help you spot fake sites. Avoid responding to emails that
    request you to provide personal information.
  • To counter tailgating attacks, users must be trained not to let
    others use their security clearance to gain access to restricted areas.
    Each user must use their own access clearance.
  • To counter human curiosity, it’s better to submit picked up flash
    disks to system administrators who should scan them for viruses or
    other infection preferably on an isolated machine.
  • To counter techniques that exploit human greed, employees must be
    trained on the dangers of falling for such scams.

 

 

Summary

  •  Social engineering is the art of exploiting the human elements to gain
    access to un-authorized resources.
  • Social engineers use a number of techniques to fool the users into
    revealing sensitive information.
  •  Organizations must have security policies that have social engineering
    counter measures.

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