written by | February 23, 2022

What is Social engineering fraud & how to protect yourself from it?

Social engineering fraud refers to the tactic of manipulating people/organisation, so they disclose sensitive information or gain access to resources such as money or personal data about the user. Social engineering fraudsters attempt to manipulate the users by employing a simple tactic where they claim to be employees, vendors, or support personnel of a particular organisation and try to trick common users. Generally, they use people’s trustworthiness to their advantage and target users that have limited knowledge with regards to keeping their personal/company data safe. Traditional methods of protection such as installing antivirus software and updating it regularly will not protect the user against viruses, malware, and social engineering attacks. Once the scammers gather the necessary information about the organization/user, they will be able to use it to their advantage and do whatever they want.

In the following sections, we will further understand the different categories of Social engineering frauds in a broader spectrum and their types. We will also see the details on how to prevent them.

Did you know? 43% of IT professionals state that they have been targeted with social engineering attacks in the last one year.

Categories in Social Engineering frauds

Social engineering fraud is a type of fraudulent activity that is conducted through human interaction. The tactic mainly uses fear, anxiety, urging and manipulation in order to trick the user into making security related mistakes. Here are the social engineering frauds that generally take place.

  • Telephonic: Pretext calling or Vishing is a process of using a telephone to lure the user to disclose information or perform an action.
  • Electronic: Electronic related Social Engineering attack mainly involves phishing and Smishing. These attacks use email or other electronic communication methods to trick the user to disclose sensitive information or perform an action, such as asking to install software, clicking on a link, or performing a transaction.
  • In-person attack: This requires the fraudster to be physically present in the target location. In such scenarios, the person will pose as a bank official, supplier, employee, or technician. This carries a risk to the fraudster and hence it is less common compared to the other Social Engineering types of fraud.

Also read: IMPS (Immediate Payment Service)- What is IMPS Transfer, IMPS Payment, Timings & Limit

Types of Social engineering fraud:

Phishing emails

Phishing emails are a well-known technique in Social engineering frauds. This is where the hackers send emails to their victims in the hope of gaining sensitive information by tricking them into clicking on a malicious link, giving the hacker access to personally identifiable information. It is difficult to disregard these cyber-attacks as they generate a feeling of fear, curiosity, or urgency among victims.

Whaling

Whaling is a type of phishing that mainly targets top-level management executives. This also includes government agencies. This type of attack is commonly referred to in hacker circles as CEO fraud, and it aims at stealing confidential information related to the organization by using techniques like email and website spoofing. Requests will be sent from the mail of a high-level executive or a finance manager and the lower staff have to abide by the request as it is deemed to be important.

Spear Phishing

Spear Phishing aims at particular individuals or businesses, and they are challenging to find as the email will have a signature and it looks like a genuine one received from a known source.

Scareware

This usually comes in the form of pop-up alerts or banners on the web browser. Users assume that their system is infected with malware and they install the software assuming it will help them. But, it is malware in disguise.

Baiting

In baiting, cybercriminals use physical media such as flash drives with sensitive labels like payroll lists or online forms to captivate users into a trap. The information seems valuable but is loaded with viruses.

Also read: All About UPI– United Payments Interface

Physical breaches

This is where the hacker does an impersonation of someone else to gain access to a secure location.

Pretext Calling

Attackers can also use the technique of pretext calling. This is where an attacker makes up a false scenario to obtain the information they need. Pretext calling often requires trust to be formed between the attacker and the victim. The fraudster usually pretends to be a co-worker, company supplier, police, or a bank official and they easily get the user to believe them and steal secured information like phone numbers, addresses, social security numbers, bank records, etc.

Challenges in Social Engineering Security

Social Engineering frauds happen because of the lack of awareness regarding data security. This is the major challenge in Social Engineering Security.

  • Fear: Attackers make use of fear, anxiety, and stress. and a perfect example of stress inducer would be tax filing. Emails are sent to victims stating that they are under inspection for tax fraud.
  • Curiosity: Cybercriminals use news and events to arouse inquisitiveness. People are lured to open emails by offering leaked information about a topic or a current trend.
  • Impersonating to be helpful: Let’s say that finance staff receive an email requesting the accounting database password to make sure the concerned manager pays everyone on time and the department employees send the details believing that they are being helped. 

How to prevent Social Engineering attacks?

There are various ways to mitigate Social Engineering attacks. Most of them may look simple but they are highly effective in protecting your company. 

  • Don’t open emails and attachments received from distrustful sources: If you are not aware of the sender, better not to open it. If you know the sender but are still suspicious about the request, check and confirm with them before acting on the request.
  • Multifactor Authentication: It is a method in which the user needs to provide two or more passwords to get access to a particular resource such as a document, online application, internet banking service and so on. This is a good method to prevent your account from being attacked.
  • Updating or implementing strong anti-malware software: It can recognize and extract suspicious emails before they reach an employee’s mailbox.
  • Robotic Process Automation: It can be one of the solutions to this problem. It can perform different manual tasks such as accounts validation and verification of incoming mails. 

To prevent employees from curbing security protocols, you should first create security policies that clarify whom employees can share information with and how. You should create official modes for staff to contact security and IT support. The consequences of Social Engineering can be avoided by educating employees and training them to detect such attacks and avoid them.

First, provide regular social engineering awareness training that lays out the usual tricks that attackers use. Secondly, training should be customized such that, employees are able to relate to the situation and teach them about the kinds of content used in it. And finally, conduct mock tests and simulations to assess how well the employees understand in successfully preventing these attacks.

Also read: What are the Different Digital Payment Methods?

Insurance protection for Social Engineering Fraud:

Losses in business due to Social Engineering Frauds can be disastrous. Most of the time, the business owner assumes that the standard insurance policy will cover this loss. But to their surprise, it is not, and they learn this lesson too late. To avoid this situation, you need to check and review the insurance policy to identify and address if there is any potential gap in the coverage. It has already been tested and proven that enough social awareness, having up-to-date systems, and educating the employees with respect to Social Engineering attacks is not sufficient, and has still given way to business loss. Time and again, every business holds risk and a Social Engineering attack is also a form of risk. Hence every business must be protected with insurance covering Social Engineering claims. 

Conclusion

Cybercriminals have learned various ways of convincing people to transfer money, provide information, or download a file infected with malware. Don’t be fooled by social engineering tactics. Be sure to train employees to follow safety and security measures in the event of an attack. Employees should always be cautious when sharing personal information on social media websites. Do not open an email that looks suspicious or allow a stranger to connect to your wireless network. Do not share personal information with strangers until you can verify where they are calling from. Review security policies to stay up to date with the latest social engineering techniques. Always use a paper shredder to correctly throw away your unwanted printed material. It is important to treat security awareness and training as an investment.

Kindly report the case to either your card issuing bank or reach out to the nearest Cybercrime. Send an email to cybercell@khatabook.com to report the case.

Important: Never share OTPs, PIN numbers or any other codes that you receive via SMS or other channels. Never share your Account Number or Credit and Debit Card details on a public platform.

FAQs

Q: Why do the firewalls allow scam mails to pass through?

Ans:

Even the most advanced email servers or firewalls will sometimes allow scam mails. Hence it is important to check the details before taking action or forwarding. This becomes of utmost importance when dealing with payments and invoices.

Q: What is clone phishing?

Ans:

Clone phishing is a kind of Social Engineering, where the legitimate or previous email is used and sent with attachments having malware or virus.

Q: What is the punishment given to Social Engineering frauds?

Ans:

Social Engineering frauds will have to pay a heavy penalty if caught. It can also lead them to jail sentences and other consequences.

Q: Is Social Engineering legal?

Ans:

Social Engineering is not legal. As it can happen to any individual online or in person, it is necessary to take required precautions by setting up multi-factor authentication, complex passwords, etc.

Q: How are Social Engineering frauds successful at tricking people?

Ans:

Social Engineering frauds are experts in creating feelings of curiosity and fear in the victim and pulling them into their trap. It is of utmost importance to be alert to protect yourself from a Social Engineering attack.

Q: Is Social Engineering a career option?

Ans:

An education in cyber security is high in demand as all organisations need continuous improvement in their security policies and practices.

Q: Why is Social Engineering considered to be the most effective way to extract information?

Ans:

Social Engineering is considered to be the most effective way to extract information because it can break through strong firewalls and highly secured systems.

Q: Define Social Engineering?

Ans:

Social Engineering is a fraudulent act that attempts to make a person act against his/her self-interest. It is a kind of con used to extract confidential information.

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