What is Social Engineering? -The Greatest Security Risk That You Should Know

“We believe social engineering is the single greatest security risk in the decade ahead.” according to research director for information security and risk Gartner. Rich Mogull, at Gartner.

Social engineering is an act of tricking people by making use of their human nature to get sensitive, confidential information from them. Instead of attacking the security vulnerabilities of the digital devices like PC or phones, cybercriminals exploit human psychology to manipulate or mislead them, so as to gain the trust from them and finally get access to buildings, computer systems and personal or confidential data. The information they can get is from the banking information, password or even high classified documents that a company owns. They like to target their potential victims who work for big companies, take advantage of human’s natural tendencies and emotional reactions, trick someone into divulging information,  such as login details, and then get access to the core of the company.

“Many of the most-damaging security penetrations are, and will continue to be, due to social engineering, not electronic hacking or cracking,” said Mogull.

Why criminals use social engineering?

The fraudsters or criminals use tactics in social engineering because your natural inclination to trust is usually easier to exploit than finding ways to hack your software. For example, attempting to crack your password is much harder than to fool someone into giving you their password.

Social Engineering Attacks You Need to Know

1. Phishing

Phishing attacks are the most common type of attacks leveraging social engineering techniques that occurs today. In most phishing scams, attackers trick people into providing sensitive information like banking account and passwords. There are some of the most common situations that could happen in phishing.

  • Attackers make up some fake messages that only have part of the information or a curious topic to attract victims’ attention, to get a full view, victims need to click the URL they provided.
  • Attackers use URLs that look like they are legitimate ones, however, the hidden links actually take you to a malicious domain that could host exploit codes. So victims lose their information and the computer just get infected by automatically load the malware.
  • Incorporate attacks, fear and urgency in an attempt to manipulate the victims to quickly respond.

2. Pretexting

Pretexting is defined as the practice of presenting oneself as someone else in order to get the trust from the victim and gain private information from them. It is more than just creating a lie, in some cases, it can be creating a whole new identity and then using that identity to manipulate the receipt of information. Usually, attackers create a fake identity and use it to manipulate the receipt of information.

3. Whaling attack

An another more serious phishing, in fact, is whaling attack, that attackers target their victims at big fish like “whale”, such as CEO, chief operations officer (COO), and chief financial officer (CFO)—or any another high-level person. The way it tricks “big fish” is also like phishing, only the content of the message sent is typically designed for top management and contains some kind of bogus business-wide concern or highly confidential information.

4. Tailgating

Another type of social engineering attack is known as tailgating or “piggybacking.” Shortly put, it is an act of someone without the proper authentication following an authenticated person into a restricted or highly confidential area. For example, attackers bypass the front desk and follow employees when the entrance needs a key card to get in.

5. Baiting

Baiting is also an act of tricking people in many ways similar to phishing. They gain the trust from victims by offering the free item or good such as music, movie downloads to entice them. In this way, users are tricked and give them login information.

6. Vishing

Vishing is a type of Voice over IP (VoIP) attack. Since a VoIP service can be used to appear as virtually anything, and the caller ID can be changed, it can be very productive to vishing attempts. It may seem that someone close to the corporation is calling or like a major outside entity such as a bank or even the government.

7. Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo attacks is similar to bating, as the fraudsters promise to exchange something with you and make you feel like this is a fair deal. For example they promise to give you a form of a service, as they utilize the society rule that if someone does you a favour, you are probably will do him or her a favour for return.


In the last decade, social engineering has become the greatest risk to cybersecurity. With more and more internet users in the world, the number cybercrime has been steadily increased. A VPN(Virtual Private Network) is also a great tool to add an extra layer for your online security as it conceals your real IP address and allows you stay hidden online, which keep those attackers hacking on your devices and stealing your information. Today is a time that everyone needs a VPN to build resistance to manipulation.


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