Social Engineering: Your Employees Might Be Your Biggest Security Risk

Social engineering is a hacking technique where cybercriminals manipulate individuals into clicking on something harmful, often by exploiting human psychology, curiosity, and ignorance. This could include opening a document embedded with malicious code or entering login credentials to a company account. Once the trap is set, the damage can be difficult to stop, with viruses spreading through networks and financial accounts being emptied.

Diving Deeper into Social Engineering

Hackers use social engineering tactics to deceive people into giving away sensitive information or unauthorised access. These attacks use psychological manipulation, authority exploitation, and emotional appeals to trick unsuspecting targets, including employees. Social engineering is a growing threat to small and medium-sized businesses. If a business has strong security measures, but an employee falls for a social engineering attack, it can result in a security breach.

According to recent cybersecurity statistics cited by StrongDM:

  • Employees of small businesses experience 350% more social engineering attacks than those at larger enterprises.
  • Only 17% of small businesses encrypt their data.
  • While 80% of all hacking incidents in 2020 involved compromised credentials or passwords, a mere 20% of small businesses have implemented multi-factor authentication.

Strong technical security is important, but educating employees about social engineering and phishing is equally crucial.

What Exactly Is Phishing?

Phishing is a form of social engineering where hackers pretend to be a bank or other trusted entity to trick users into giving away login credentials. This is usually done via fraudulent emails, texts, or phone calls. The urgency of the request is a common red flag to be aware of.

The Insidious Art of Pretexting and Baiting

Pretexting involves fabricating stories to trick employees into exposing sensitive information or taking certain actions. Employees may fall prey to phishing attackers who impersonate business leadership, IT staff, HR, or even vendors to extract sensitive information or money. 

Baiting involves enticing users with fabulous offers or opportunities that compromise network and data security.

How to Combat Social Engineering

It is important for every business, regardless of size, to have a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that notably includes security awareness training for everyone in the company.

The following are smart but simple tactics to mitigate the dangers that human nature poses to your organisation’s overall security posture, whether you use a third-party security awareness training program or simply reinforce cyber safety best practices:

  • Educate employees on social engineering tactics and the red flags they should be aware of.
  • Employees should be trained to exercise skepticism and internal verification when they are asked for anything that seems out of the norm.
  • Multi Factor Authentication (MFA) should be implemented to minimise the risk of unauthorised access.
  • Ensure the security of the system. A strong password policy should be enforced, including regular password changes and password complexity requirements.
  • An incident response plan should be developed which outlines the essential steps for containment and recovery in the event of a social engineering attack.
  • Detect and respond to suspicious activity, a network monitoring solution or third-party service should be implemented.

Keep in mind that knowledge is not only power, but also your first line of defense when it comes to keeping your company, its systems, and data secure.

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