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Why is Social Engineering Effective? | Ethical Hacking

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Social engineering is a specialty of controlling individuals to unveil delicate data to perform some malicious action. Despite security policies, attackers can compromise an organization’s sensitive information using social engineering as it targets the weakness of people. Most often, employees are not even aware of a security lapse on their part and reveal the organization’s critical information inadvertently. For instance, unwittingly answering the questions of strangers and replying to spam email. People have conditioned themselves not to be overly suspicious, and they associate certain behavior and appearances with known entities. For instance, a man in a uniform carrying a pile of packages for delivery will be considered a delivery person. With the help of social engineering tricks, attackers succeed in obtaining confidential information, authorization, and access details of people by deceiving and manipulating human vulnerability.

Behaviors Vulnerable to Attacks:
Here is the list of behaviors that are vulnerable to social engineering attacks:

  1. The normal human inclination to believe others is the building block of any social engineering hack.
  2. Obliviousness about social engineering and its consequences for the labor force makes the organization an easy target.
  3. Fear of severe losses in case of non-compliance with the social engineer’s request.
  4. Social engineers bait the objectives to reveal data by promising something for nothing (voracity).
  5. Targets are requested assistance, and they consent to as an ethical obligation.

Sources Of Information For Attack:
Prior to a social engineering attack, a hacker gathers information about the victim organization from various sources such as:

  1. Official websites of the target organizations, where employees’ IDs, names, and email addresses are shared.
  2. Advertisements of the target organization through the type of print media required for high-tech workers trained in Oracle databases or UNIX servers.
  3. Blogs, forums, etc. where employees share basic personal and organizational information.

After gathering the required information, the hacker executes a social engineering attack using various approaches such as impersonation, piggybacking, tailgating, reverse social engineering, and so on. Stealing sensitive information for performing malicious activities in a wise manner is referred to as the art of manipulating people which is known as social engineering. Despite security policies, attackers can compromise an organization’s sensitive information using social engineering as it targets the weakness of people.
To succeed, attackers take a special interest in developing social engineering skills and can be so proficient that the victims might not even notice the fraud. Attackers always look for new ways to access information. They also ensure that they know the organization’s perimeter and the people on the perimeter in order to exploit human oversight.

Social Engineering Takes Advantage Of:
Social engineering tries to take advantage of the following weaknesses:

  1. Reciprocity-
    It is the first universal principle of influence. Simply put, people are obliged to give back to others the form of behavior, gift, or service that they have received first. For example, If a friend invites you to their party there is an obligation for you to invite them to a future party you are hosting. And in the context of social obligation, people are more likely to say yes to those that they owe. The key to using the principle of reciprocation is to be the first to give and to ensure what you give is personalized and unexpected.
  2. Scarcity-
    The second universal principle of persuasion is scarcity, which means people want more of those things they can have less of. So when it comes to effectively persuading others using the security principle, the science is clear. It is not enough simply to put people about the benefits they will gain if they choose your products and services; you will also need to point out what is unique about your proposition and what they stand to lose if they fail to consider your proposal.
  3. Authority-
    It refers to the idea that people follow the lead of credible knowledge experts. Physiotherapists for example are able to persuade more of their patients to comply with recommended exercise programs if they display their medical diplomas on the walls of their consulting rooms. What science is telling us that it is important to signal to others what makes you a credible knowledgeable authority before you make your influence attempt? According to the principle, it doesn’t matter if the person who introduces you is not only connected to you but also likely to prosper from the introduction themselves.
  4. Liking-
    We tune in to individuals who we like. This rule is the reason you used to see the appealing young lady sitting on top of a game’s vehicle in promotions, why praises can improve the chances of getting some help, and why certain inexpensive food chains have bombastic Twitter channels.
  5. Commitment-
    Individuals like to keep up reliable conduct. Due to this, a little activity can prompt bigger activities. Cialdini refers to a model; an investigation where an irregular example of individuals was called and asked how they would react whenever requested to give three hours of their time chipping in for the American Cancer Society.
  6. Consensus-
    Individuals will in general do what they accept everybody around them is doing, especially when they are uncertain of what to do in any case. On the off chance that you stroll into a packed room, and everybody is gazing at the roof what’s the principal thing you will do?
  7. Unity-
    We incline toward individuals who we distinguish as being like us. This is the place where patriotism, the family bond, and the Women’s March all begin from. It’s additionally why we like it when we share an interest with someone; it’s something we share for all intents and purposes.
  8. Insufficient Security Training-
    Employees can be ignorant about social engineering tricks used by an attacker to lure them into divulging sensitive data about the organization. Therefore, the minimum responsibility of any organization is to educate their employees about social engineering techniques and the threats associated with them to prevent social engineering attacks.
  9. Unregulated Access to the Information-
    For any company, one of the main assets is its database. Providing unlimited access or allowing everyone’s access to sensitive data might land them in trouble. Therefore, companies must ensure proper surveillance and training to key personnel accessing the sensitive data,
  10. Several Organizational Units-
    Some associations have their units in various geographic areas making it hard to deal with the mainframes. Then again, it gets simpler for a hacker to get to the association’s delicate data.
  11. Lack of Security Policies-
    Security policy forms the foundation of the security infrastructure. It is a significant level of archive depicting the security controls actualized in an organization. All kinds of measures should be in consideration for every possible threat or vulnerability. Implementation of certain security measures, such as password change policy, information sharing policy, access privileges, unique user identification, and centralized security, prove to be beneficial.

Like other techniques, social engineering does not deal with network security issues instead, it deals with the psychological manipulation of the human being to extract desired information.

Why Social Engineering Keeps On Being Compelling:
Here are some reasons why social engineering keeps on being compelling: 

  1. Regardless of different security strategies, forestalling social engineering is a test since individuals are generally vulnerable to variety.
  2. It is indeed difficult to distinguish between social engineering endeavors. Social engineering is the craftsmanship and study of controlling individuals into revealing data. Also, utilizing this stunt, aggressors sneak into an association’s vault of data.
  3. No strategy ensures total security from social engineering hacks.
  4. No particular equipment or programming is accessible to defend from social engineering hacks.
  5. This methodology is generally simple to actualize and liberated from costing.

Impact Of Social Engineering Attack On Organization:
Social engineering doesn’t appear to be a genuine danger, yet it can prompt hefty misfortunes for associations. The impact of social engineering attack on organizations include:

  1. Financial Losses-
    Competitors may utilize social engineering procedures to take touchy data, for example, advancement plans and advertising systems of an objective organization, which can result in a financial misfortune to the objective organization.
  2. Harm to Goodwill-
    For an association, altruism is significant for drawing in clients. Social engineering assaults may harm that altruism by releasing touchy hierarchical information.
  3. Loss of Privacy-
    Privacy is a major concern, especially for big organizations. If an organization is unable to maintain the privacy of its stakeholders or customers, then people can lose trust in the company and may discontinue the business association with the organization. Consequently, the organization could face losses.
  4. Dangers of Terrorism-
    Terrorism and anti-social elements pose a threat to an organization’s assets- people and property. Terrorists may use social engineering techniques to make blueprints of their targets to infiltrate their targets.
  5. Lawsuits and Arbitration-
    Lawsuits and arbitration result in negative publicity for an organization and affects the business’s performance.
  6. Temporary or Permanent Closure-
    Social engineering attacks can result in a loss of goodwill. Lawsuits and arbitration may force a temporary or permanent closure of an organization and its business activities.

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Last Updated : 12 Mar, 2021
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