Stop Social Engineering Attacks Before They Start with Passpack

Social Engineering Attacks and Scams

Social engineering attacks represent a significant threat to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), exploiting human psychology to breach security systems. In this article, we explore how Passpack’s comprehensive password management solutions can shield your team from such insidious attacks, emphasizing the necessity of robust digital defenses in today’s interconnected workplace.

Everybody loves social media, text, and email. It’s how we connect to family, friends, coworkers and work in an increasingly remote world. For those with bad intentions, however, it presents countless opportunities to manipulate unsuspecting victims into divulging valuable personal and business information or install malware to gain control over a computer or network.

What are Social Engineering Attacks?

Social engineering attacks are defined by when a hacker attempts to compromise the digital security of a person or business using one or more social networking vehicles.

The perpetrators’ motives may be to commit identity theft, credit card fraud, or empty a bank account. They can disrupt services, steal corporate secrets, freeze computer networks or encrypt and hold customer data for ransom. The threats may come from organized cybercriminal gangs, foreign governments, a domestic thief, or a disgruntled former employee.

The Types of Social Engineering Attacks

The basic premise of social engineering attacks involves using fear and/or creating a sense of urgency to get victims to respond to a text, email, or social media post that gives the hacker a critical piece of information or a foothold into the target network. The four most common techniques are:

    • Phishing: Impersonating trusted people/entities in mass emails and texts to attempt to get recipients to reveal a password or personal information, transfer funds, redirect them to a fake website, or open an attachment with a payload of malicious software. The message is usually “something is wrong that demands immediate action.”
    • Baiting: This approach offers a reward such as a free trial, upgrade, or promotional offer for taking an action like downloading a file or going to a website to watch a video or take a survey. The real prize: the victim’s information for sale on the dark web or malware installed on the company system.
    • Business Email Compromise (BEC) or CEO/CFO Fraud: A criminal spoofs the email identity of a trusted executive in the company, usually someone with financial authority. Emails are sent to underlings with instructions to make purchases, cut checks to fake vendors, move funds to fraudulent accounts, and other nefarious financial tasks. These emails go undetected because they appear to come from an authorized employee.
    • Pretexting or Whaling: This trick involves creating more elaborate schemes to gain the trust of a specific individual, typically a high-level executive. The criminal will do deep research to uncover social media activity, interests, and personal habits to create a scenario that plays to a high-value target’s emotions, increasing the chances of getting them to disclose valuable information.

There are many offshoots of these techniques like:

    • Honeytrapping, which targets individuals looking for love on dating websites.
    • Spearphishing, a highly personalized version of phishing targeting a specific business or executive.
    • Smishing, which uses text messages to reach victims on mobile devices, plus new threats popping up all the time.

Also, consider the emergence of AI has allowed cybercriminals to up their game by making fraudulent communications look quite legitimate. They are no longer horribly misspelled messages notifying you of the passing of a long lost relative and you simply need to enter your bank account number to collect a sizable inheritance.

How to Protect Against Social Engineering Attacks

Here’s an interesting fact: According to Symantec, only about 3% of the malware it encounters is designed to exploit a technical flaw in software. The other 97% is trying to trick a user into revealing information through some type of social engineering scheme.

Why? It is much easier to find one unsuspecting user to open an infected email or reveal a password than it is to penetrate a fortified corporate firewall. As such, social engineering is the root cause for the vast majority of cyberattacks that can be traced to the use of a weak or compromised password.

That means the biggest cyber threat to your organization is your own employees falling for a phishing trap and your best defense is education.

    • Conduct security awareness training to educate employees about the latest threats and social media scams.
    • Teach your employees to be skeptical of unsolicited messages (especially if they come with an urgent request), check the validity of the source/URL, and immediately report suspicious activity to IT.
    • Train them not to click on suspicious links, download attachments from unknown senders, or insert a USB drive from an unknown source into their computer.

Some businesses conduct simulated phishing attacks to see which employees take the bait, and then provide remedial training.

Beyond that, the universal advice from all cybersecurity experts is to use a password manager application and activate multi-factor authentication (MFA).

A password manager encourages the use of strong, unique credentials for every digital asset. It gives an organization power to consistently enforce rules and policies governing password creation, sharing, and resource access across all users.

Randomly generating complex character strings with symbols makes passwords nearly impossible to memorize, reducing the chances a user can inadvertently leak them. Rather, employees login to their password manager and from the security of the app to populate their username and passwords to their digital destinations.

Activating MFA, a key capability of the best password manager apps, adds an extra layer of protection by requiring users to verify their identity using a second or sometimes even a third piece of information such as Google and Microsoft Authenticators or using a YubiKey. MFA significantly reduces the risk of a breach, even if a user’s first layer of login credentials is compromised.

There are many other common-sense measures you can take to reduce risk, such as building a firewall, regularly updating your operating system, applications, and threat monitoring software for the latest known vulnerabilities, installing spam filters, securing RDP ports, and prohibiting the use of personal devices for business communications. But after employee education, implementing a password manager app with MFA should be a top priority.

Passpack is Your Best Defense

Passpack is a business-focused password generation and management solution specifically designed for small- to medium-sized companies. Passpack utilizes military-grade AES-256 encryption for data security and incorporates advanced capabilities including secure password generation, management, and sharing, DNS validation and user access controls, and of course, MFA.

Further, Passpack is built on zero-knowledge architecture and utilizes our unique Packing Key technology for greater security. A Packing Key is the master code created and known only by the end user of each account. It must be entered to unlock the passwords and confidential information stored in their Passpack account, making it extremely unlikely a social engineering attack will succeed at a business protected by Passpack.

In fact, we’re so confident Passpack can help you defend against all types of cyberthreats – social engineering attacks and more – that we offer a 28-day free trial of our Business Plan so you can see how easy it is to protect your business with Passpack. You’ve got nothing to lose except susceptibility to an attack.

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