Social Engineering Tests – Protect Your Organization
Protecting your organization from malicious cyberattacks is one of the most important elements of succeeding in the modern-day. The costs of a data breach can easily put a business underwater, particularly in severe cases. An average security failure costs businesses in excess of three million dollars as of 2020, while some cases have entailed ten-figure losses. There are a few ways to protect your business, however. Some are obvious, such as using up-to-date security software, while others are less obvious but equally important. Arranging a social engineering test can expose potential vulnerabilities ahead of time and prevent you from suffering the fallout of a data breach.
What is Social Engineering?
In the context of data security, social engineering is an umbrella term for various related forms of attacks. The common thread is that rather than targeting your hardware or software, they target your people. While the typical mental image of the hacker is someone typing away at a keyboard and cracking codes as if by magic, the reality of hacking tends to be much more mundane. Human beings are significantly more error-prone than technical controls, and the vast majority of cyberattacks rely on this fallibility.
Some of the most well known types include the infamous Nigerian prince scams and scareware, the pop-ups that rely on using your fear response to lead you to make a bad decision. However, modern tech-users are too savvy to fall for those old tricks. As a result, the tactics that attackers use have matured and are now much more intricate and subtle. Anyone can fall victim to such an attack, and they’re a common source of data breaches in business.
Consequences of a Social Engineering Attack
One of the main reasons that social engineering can be so dangerous is that a successful attack is hard to detect. Typically, the victim can go six to seven months without even realizing what’s happened. In the meantime, their personal data or the data of their employer and customers has been jeopardized. These sorts of data breaches are extremely common, and more than half of all businesses might suffer one in the short span of a year.
Going six months with adversaries on the LAN is already a nightmare. In a business setting, it can have catastrophic effects due to financial loss and regulatory penalties. After a major data breach, your company will also have an enduring stain over its brand that it may struggle to overcome.
Types of Social Engineering Attacks
There are two ways to divide up different social engineering attacks. You can either divide them by the manipulation tactics that they entail, or by the medium of communication. Considering the medium of communication, then there are three types of social engineering attacks. Computer-based such as email, phone-based such as calling and texting, and physical, in-person social engineering. If you look at the methods that malicious actors will use to compromise your data, you reach the following common categories:
- Phishing: The most common type of social engineering attack, which can occur over text, email or phone call.
- Baiting: Attempting to lure targets using devices which are already compromised.
- Pretexting: Using knowledge of a target to devise a backstory that will allow the attacker to gain their trust. By building this sense of trust, they lay the groundwork to proceed with a more complex, personalized con.
- Quid pro quo: an attacker will attempt to promise the target something in return for data.
- Tailgating: A physical, on-site form of social engineering where someone attempts to bluff their way into reaching an area they shouldn’t have access to.
- Scareware: as described above.
While these are some of the most prominent methods of attack, there are others. However, memorizing all of the different types of attacks isn’t the way to go about protecting the information of your business. Instead, you can develop security protocols, training methods and a company culture that minimize the chances of a breach.
Protect Yourself From Social Engineering
Protecting your business from social engineering attacks relies on a combination of different practices. For one, employees must be aware of the phenomenon of social engineering and remain vigilant of certain red flags. For instance, websites with misspelled, typo squatting domains are a typical resource of malicious actors. By using fake websites that are only one character away from a reputed brand, it’s often possible to trick someone into compromising their own data.
Impersonating authority figures within the organization is also a common tactic that operates on a similar basis. Creating an email address that resembles that of a higher-up is a common way to trick someone into divulging data. However, it’s possible to thwart social engineering attempts by paying attention to spellings and looking for security certificates on a website. It’s possible to impress this sort of vigilance upon employees via training to minimize the possibility of a data breach.
However, it’s impossible to reduce the chance of a breach to zero. In the event of a breach, every employee must feel comfortable immediately reporting their mistake to security. Draconian punishment, public or private embarrassment, and similar consequences will discourage reports and expose your business to potentially fatal risks.
Training is key, but you don’t immediately see the benefits you get from it. A poorly designed training routine might fail to properly educate employees, or some employees may not have taken it seriously. Once you’ve completed the training process, the final step to ensure your data security is putting your organization through a social engineering test.
Social Engineering Tests
Social engineering tests are a form of penetration testing that websites can use to gauge the strength of their security services. It revolves around orchestrating a simulated attack to try and trick employees the same way that a malicious attacker would. There are as many types of tests as there are ways that hackers can target members of your organization.
One of the most common types of cons and the standard social engineering test is the email phishing campaign. Over the course of this test, we’d play the role of an actor attempting to manipulate your employees via email. This can entail the full range of tactics that a genuine, malicious adversary would apply, such as using fake sets of contact information and misleading web links. Our ultimate goal is to see if it’s possible to trick them into downloading faux malware and handing over their credentials.
Of course, there are no negative consequences of failing a social engineering test. It’s not hostile malware that your employees will download if they make a mistake. However, the point of the test is finding out if they would have downloaded malware in a situation where the attack came from malicious threat actors.
Benefits of Social Engineering Testing
Social engineering tests, like other forms of penetrative testing or so-named ethical hacking, are the most reliable ways to find vulnerabilities in your security controls and culture. It’s impossible to know the results that your training produces and how to modify your training processes without data. By putting your workforce to the test, you’ll quickly find out what sort of attacks your organization is susceptible to.
In this regard, it’s impossible to fail a social engineering test. Any mistake or failure provides invaluable information that will save your business from the consequences of a real attack in the long-run. If your organization appears invulnerable to phishing and other, related attacks, then you can be confident and secure in your data integrity.
However, everything changes with time. Company culture can drift, employees leave and new people replace them, and would-be data thieves develop new techniques. Periodically employing the latest social engineering tests and reassessing your training as needed is the only way to stay secure indefinitely.
Arrange a Social Engineering Test
Don’t wait until you’ve already had a data breach to start worrying about security. If you’re looking to enhance the security of your organization, then get started today. Call us to arrange a social engineering test and find out how prepared you are for a cyberattack.
And if you have any questions about data security or social engineering tests that weren’t answered here, we can help. We’re the experts in our field and will gladly brief you on the latest developments in the world of cybersecurity.