Five things you need to know about social engineering

The more victims who click links and install the bad guy's software, the more money the criminals make

SOCIAL ENGINEERING IS GROWING UP.

Social engineering, the act of tricking people into giving up sensitive information, is nothing new. Convicted hacker Kevin Mitnick made a name for himself by cold-calling staffers at major U.S. companies and talking them into giving him information. But today's criminals are having a heyday using e-mail and social networks.

A well-written phishing message or virus-laden spam campaign is a cheap, effective way for criminals to get the data they need.

TARGETED ATTACKS ARE ON THE RISE.

Northrop Grumman recently reported that China was "likely" stealing data from the United States in a "long- term, sophisticated network exploitation campaign."

Security experts have noticed criminals were "spear phishing"--getting Trojan horse programs to run on a victim's computer by using carefully crafted e-mail messages. Used to steal intellectual property and state secrets, spear phishing is now everywhere.

CASTING A BROAD NET PAYS OFF TOO.

Less discriminating criminals cast a wider net with their attacks. They pick e-mail subjects everybody's interested in: a message from the IRS, or even "a photo of you."

The more victims who click links and install the bad guy's software, the more money the criminals make. Right now, "they're doing it with messaging that is extremely broad," says Gary Warner, director of research in computer forensics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Click here to find out more!

FREE STUFF CAN BE COSTLY.

Attackers love to tempt people with freebies, security experts say. "The bait that works best is a popular device," says Sherri Davidoff, a penetration tester hired to see if she can break into corporate networks. One of Davidoff's most successful techniques: a fake employee survey.

Victims fill it out thinking they'll qualify to win an iPod if they hand over sensitive information. "Thirty to 35 percent will enter their usernames and passwords to get the iPhone," she says.

PEOPLE TRUST THEIR (HACKED) FRIENDS.

That trust allowed the Koobface worm to spread throughout Facebook and led to a rash of direct-message attacks on Twitter too. It's all part of the next round of socially-engineered attacks, says Steve Santorelli, formerly a Scotland Yard detective and now director of global outreach at Team Cymru.

A few years ago hackers were more focused on the quality of their code. Now, he says, "they are putting an equal effort into social engineering."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags social engineering

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?