Cybercriminals use social engineering every day to attempt to hack into people’s personal information. Chances are, you have seen all three of these attempts sometime during your lifetime. Social engineering is slightly different though because it preys on the human condition. Attempting to gain trust and manipulate people. This way it’s even easier to have someone almost willingly give out personal information. In general, there are three major ways that cybercriminals use social engineering to steal your info.
The first is via email.
This is one of the most prominent ways that information is stolen. This side of social engineering has been around nearly as long as emails have and its guaranteed that anyone with an email account has seen at least one of the many phishing scams that come from cybercriminals. Perhaps a Nigerian Prince would like to wire you a ton of money because his inheritance is wrapped up in the bank for some reason. All you need to do is pay a few fees to receive the money and you get to keep a portion of his millions. Totally legitimate right? Or maybe the bank needs you to confirm your account number and social security number because of an “account breach”. Why not right? The bank is a legitimate business, it must be real, even the email looks real. Better yet, wouldn’t you love to be a secret shopper? Receive a check for $1000, cash it, and perform a job. Innocent enough right? Not after you wire initial costs and attempt to cash a bad check. These are just some of the ways social engineers prey on unsuspecting and trusting people. If sending money or willingly giving up information isn’t involved, then there is usually malware within the email. The links that can be clicked on will deploy malware to infect your computer files and obtain information about you. It’s amazing how prevalent these scams are. But if you're educated on them, you won’t become a victim.
Next is posing as someone you know.
This can take several different forms, however the most obvious is copycat Facebook profiles. This is another prominent scam that cybercriminals use to trick people into thinking they are receiving a friend request from someone they know. The profile will often contain a few photos from the original person's profile so it looks a tad more real. As unsuspecting friends add this profile, it begins to look more legitimate because of similar friends and associates. This profile can ask for money or send links containing malware to infect your computer, or even corrupt your Facebook profile gaining access to personal information. Another way cybercriminals can gain access to your information is by posing as someone within your company. They can send an email that looks like it’s from your boss when really its fake. Usually, something about the email address will be a bit off, if you’re paying attention. Letters are swapped around or a .net becomes a .com at the end of the email. As soon as you open it or click on a link, there goes malware infecting your computer. This scam is usually highly effective because it gets sent to everyone in the company, and people often take it as real from the boss.
Finally, a newer way for cybercriminals to target people is through advertisements.
Considering ads are pretty much everywhere online now, creating ransomware ads is incredibly easy and a bit difficult to spot among the hundreds people see every day. For this type of social engineering, cybercriminals literally deploy ad campaigns showcasing a product or a service. When you click on the ad, it downloads malware or ransomware onto your computer. Most of the time these ads are for anti-virus software or a pop-up will come on your computer saying your computer has been infected and to click the link to clean the virus. Tricky, tricky cybercriminals.
The key to these three general social engineering styles is to become educated on them and keep an eye out for anything that seems off. It certainly pays nowadays to be diligent during your time on the internet and pay attention to everything. If something seems strange or wrong, avoid it until you are certain it is safe. Try not to click on any links inside of emails unless you are sure, and trust the sender. If you get a friend request from someone, look over their profile and ensure its real. Check out their friends, photos, and posts to ensure they aren’t fake. Then finally don’t trust any anti-virus pop-ups or ads. Make sure that you make educated decisions while surfing the internet, stay safe out there!