Social engineering: the simplest hack in the world

How can hackers, through trickery and manipulation, get hold of our most confidential information? This is the question we will answer in this detailed article onsocial engineering.

This word, which many people do not know, speaks of a hacking technique which does not need dangerous programs or computer know-how, but rather plays on people's trust and naivety.

Social engineering: what is it exactly?

Social engineering is when someone, often a hacker, abuses people's trust to steal sensitive data. Indeed, they can include passwords, bank account information or industrial secrets.

For example, a person might claim to work for a company and say they need to update an antivirus on a computer. In reality, it installs a keylogger to steal passwords.

people like Kevin Mitnick or Frank Abagnale are known to have used these techniques. Mitnick even says that it is easier to manipulate people than to find errors in software.

In what follows, we will see how hackers use social engineering and how we can protect ourselves against these attacks.

Social engineering methods

By phone

On the phone, it's easy to be tricked by someone. Indeed, the computer hacker, or 'hacker', seeks to obtain information as quickly as possible.

This technique is called vishing, a term that comes from the combination of the words 'voice' and 'phishing'.

This is'a form of scam carried out by telephone or voice messageL. In this scenario, the scammer may pose as, for example, a banking advisor and request personal information from his victim, under false pretenses.

A good hacker, therefore, will have well prepared for his role and what he wants to say. With a few well-chosen sentences and speaking in the right way, he can easily obtain secret information.

Finally, some hackers have tricks to appear more real, like putting on a recording of office noises, or change their voice to sound like a secretary.

By Internet or by SMS

On the Internet, hackers exploit various methods such as misleading emails and Phishing to trap their victims. Indeed, they design clever and persuasive messages, often hidden behind familiar identities. Then, they push recipients to click on malicious links or open infected attachments.

By bombarding millions of people with these emails, hackers increase their chances of success. They do not target specific individuals; they cast their nets offshore, knowing that quantity maximizes their chances of catching prey.

By direct contact

Even though a hacker can accomplish a lot of things over the phone or the Internet, sometimes it is essential to physically go there. He can then study the situation on the ground, recover a password written down on a piece of paper, or install malware on the victim's computer.

The hacker must be well equipped so that the target does not notice anything. Appearance will play a crucial role: suit, tie, neat clothes, briefcase, filled diary, various documents, business cards, badge... He must display a confident attitude, with a fixed gaze and head held high.

If the hacker takes such risks, it is because he is determined to obtain the desired information, and he will therefore be very persuasive.

How to protect yourself from social engineering attacks?

To defend yourself against social engineering, you must remain attentive and never share private information without being sure of the identity of the person requesting them.

1. Learn and inform

It is crucial to learn and inform everyone about the dangers of social engineering. For example, companies can hold workshops where employees learn how to recognize email phishing attempts.

2. Check and confirm

Always check who is asking for information. For example, if someone claims to be calling from the bank, it is best to hang up and call the official bank number again to confirm.

3. Protect information

Sensitive information should be protected, for example by using strong passwords and not clicking on questionable links in emails. Installing a good antivirus can also help protect information on the computer.

4. Follow safety rules

Following simple security rules, like not sharing passwords and verifying identities, can help avoid a lot of problems. If the company has rules, they must be followed scrupulously.

5. Be attentive and vigilant

Regularly reviewing bank statements and invoices for suspicious activity, and being alert to unsolicited emails and calls, can help quickly detect social engineering attempts.