Online security has only magnified in importance over the last year, as many businesses have seen their employees work remotely.
As a result, the focus of IT support services has changed to accommodate the changing business needs and ensure that any computer connected to your cloud system is secure, protected from threats and data breaches.
Ultimately, however, one key part of any successful online security system is ensuring the people who are using your system are aware of security threats and scams which target computer users rather than the systems themselves.
These are social engineering scams, and here are some simple signs to look out for to avoid falling victim to them.
What Is Social Engineering?
Social engineering is a unique way to breach a network that involves manipulating people to gain information, access to a system, or money.
These scams can take many forms, from authentic-looking but fake emails and websites that either take personal, financial or access information directly used by hackers or launches a virus that can cause incredible amounts of disruption and damage to a business.
Whilst most social engineering attacks occur online, some can use text messages, phone calls, or in a few rare cases, fax machines and physical media such as USB sticks and CDs.
How To Stay Aware And Alert
There are three main aspects of social engineering attacks that are taken advantage of to cause a person behind their keyboard to make a costly error. Noticing when these three traits are being exploited is key to stopping a social engineering attack.
Typical security basics such as having enhanced web security tools, strong passwords, multi-factor authentication and never clicking on links in emails or messages (instead of copying the link into an address bar to determine it is legitimate) will help here.
Here are the three main traits of a social engineering attack.
Typically a social engineering attack takes advantage of a victim’s emotions to force them to act irrationally and rashly. Typically for businesses, the main emotion they will prey upon is fear. However, guilt, sadness, excitement, anger and curiosity can also be exploited in equal measures.
For example, emails and text messages may come in which look like they are from your bank, HMRC, your company or common technology providers such as Microsoft, Google and Apple.
However, they often use demanding language with a call to action of clicking a particular address.
If you feel like your emotions are heightened when looking at an email, consider it a red flag, step back and assess whether this is legitimate.
Urgency And Anxiety
Time-sensitivity is a key weapon utilised by social engineers. People make rash decisions when they feel like they are on the clock, hence why many emails often make demands for immediate rectification of a problem or promise a prize within an unreasonable amount of time.
Never let yourself rush into a situation like this and never click the link, instead of checking through legitimate sources if there is an issue.
For example, a common social engineering tactic used for mobile devices is claiming you owe or are owed tax and offer a link to rectify this immediately.
Instead of clicking the link and falling into the trap, log into your account through legitimate sources and check that way.
When in doubt, ask the actual person the scammer is pretending to be if they did send you anything.
Social engineering scams work because you trust that they are legitimate, with the heightened emotions and time-sensitivity intended to stop you from critically analysing the email.
Ensure you know a message comes from a legitimate email address, and pay attention carefully for suspicious details.
Email addresses, web URLs, and odd downloads will typically have weird URLs, bad image quality, different formatting from legitimate emails, and odd spelling and punctuation errors.
When in doubt, ask someone to verify their identity before allowing them access to any systems or information.
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