What exactly is social engineering, and how can you safeguard yourself from becoming a victim of it?

In the world of cybercrime, social engineering refers to a method of manipulation that is used to collect sensitive information from people. You may have been the subject of a social engineering attack if you have ever gotten an unexpected phone call or email from someone asking for your account number, social security number, or other personal information.

Attackers who utilize social engineering do not need to get into databases or bypass cybersecurity safeguards; rather, they must persuade consumers to willingly give up sensitive information by pretending to be reputable businesses or giving counterfeit goods. These cons may target a wide variety of information, including credit card numbers, bank account details, and even sensitive files and gadgets.

The practice of social engineering may take on a variety of appearances, and it is not always simple to identify. You are in luck since there are a variety of methods at your disposal that may help you recognize such cons and defend yourself against future attacks.

How does social engineering work?

The term “social engineering” refers to the practice of coercing someone into disclosing confidential information or granting access to a personal device or account. Hackers will often contact you pretending to be someone you know and trust in order to ask for information or advice on how to access a website or a file. For instance, a corporation may send you an email demanding that you download an attachment or a representative from technical support may phone you seeking information.

Some of these communications are persuasive, and it may be difficult to tell them apart from legitimate requests at first glance. Scammers often conduct preliminary research on the company or individual they intend to target in order to learn as much as possible about them. Once they have obtained this information, they are able to personalize their communications by tailoring them to the affiliations or positions held by the target within the company.

If the victim is fooled by the con, they may be requested to provide account information, input their login credentials on a bogus website, or download malware onto their device without their knowledge.

Various forms of manipulation using social engineering

Hackers have a wide variety of tools at their disposal to utilize in order to carry out social engineering attacks. These are the four that occur most frequently:


One of the most widespread methods of social engineering fraud is known as phishing. In order to carry out this attack, a hacker will pretend to be a well-known corporation or organization and will send an email to the targets of the attack asking for access to their login credentials, credit card information, or other sensitive data.

The information may be requested directly from you, or the hacker may ask you to click on a link that will take you to a false website where you are required to input your login credentials or other sensitive information.

Phishing attacks may also be carried out by fraudsters by using other modes of communication, such as instant messaging. Phishing scams that are conducted through text message are referred to as smishing, whilst phishing scams conducted by phone call or voice message are referred to as vishing. Phishing mails like this sometimes contain some kind of warning or indication of impending danger to encourage their targets to take immediate action.

Spear phishing

A kind of phishing attack known as spear phishing is one that is directed especially at a member of staff at a business or other organization. Instead of sending a generic email or message to a large group of people, the attacker selects a worker to deliver a tailored request for information. It is common for these communications to persuade the target that they have a connection with the sender, which increases the likelihood that the target may provide private information or data.


Although the final result is the same in both cases, the methods used in phishing and baiting are not exactly the same. Scammers don’t send out requests for information; rather, they insert adverts or hardware that trick victims into visiting harmful websites or downloading malware. For instance, an adversary may construct an enticing advertisement that gives the impression of leading to a product page. Nevertheless, when the user clicks on it, it will download a program that is infested with malware.

Another common tactic for perpetrating fraud is the use of actual physical devices. In order to do this, hackers will install a flash drive or another kind of storage device in an area where it will be easy for their targets to find it. When the victim connects the gadget to his computer, he opens the door for malicious software to enter the device.


In order to acquire access to a restricted location, a person may deploy the hardware-based attacks known as “tailgating,” in which they pretend to be an employee or another trusted individual. It is possible that someone posing as a janitor may ask you to keep the door open for them, or it might be a new employee who has misplaced his access card. Once the attacker has gotten access, their next step is to look for data, papers, or other material that is forbidden for the firm.

Examples of exploits using social engineering

As a result of the fact that hackers want to seem as credible as possible, social engineering attacks may be difficult to detect. You will have a better understanding of what a social engineering attack may look like by reading the following real-world examples.

Sophisticated email phishing attack aimed at Google and Facebook

Between 2013 and 2015, a gang of hackers employed spear phishing to defraud Google and Facebook out of a total of $100 million. This incident is one of the most well-known incidents of social engineering ever to have taken place.

The gang, which was directed by Evaldas Rimasauskas, fabricated a computer manufacturing firm to look nearly exactly like the genuine supplier that Google and Facebook use. They followed this by sending specific workers bills through email, requesting those employees to send money to a bank account that was controlled by the hackers. The organization was successful in persuading workers to transfer a total of one hundred million dollars over the course of two years by using invoices that included products and services that had been delivered by a real firm. In addition, the senders came across as reliable.

Social Security fraud in the United States

In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission started receiving many allegations of calls from fraudsters claiming to work for the Social Security Administration. These scammers gave the false impression that they were calling from the Social Security Administration. During these conversations, the hackers pretended to be workers and requested the victims to verify their social security numbers before hanging up. They were attempting to bolster the credibility of the calls by claiming that an issue with a computer had led to a difficulty on the internal level.

Identity theft is a persistent issue that often occurs as a result of social engineering scams like the ones described below. Because of this, the authorities strongly advise the general public to never provide their social security information over the phone, particularly in the event that they get a dubious call.

Signs of a possible attack

Attacks that include social engineering are becoming more convincing and harder to spot as time goes on. You are in luck since there are indicators that may help you recognize them before you become their next victim.

You are unable to identify the sender.

You shouldn’t automatically assume that you’re the target of a social engineering attack just because you got an email or message from someone you don’t know, but you should still be cautious. Verify the sender’s identification before reacting to any of their messages or clicking on any of the links they provide you if they claim to work for your business or organization.

Unexpected emails

If you get an unexpected email from a coworker or from a firm that you do not often deal with, there is a possibility that it is a scam. Especially in the event that the letter communicates a feeling of urgency and asks you to supply access details or other sensitive data, as well as requests it from you. Swindlers often use this tactic to dupe workers into providing information out of fear of reprisal from their employers. In the event that this occurs to you, you should refrain from replying to the email or opening any attachments until you have confirmed with your manager or a coworker that the request is genuine.

Providers of free downloads

Hackers that use social engineering often use the promise of a free download product as another tactic to get their victims to click on links that lead to malicious websites. These offers often arrive in the form of an email or an advertisement shown online and include free downloads of software, music, e-books, or other digital items. It is also possible for download buttons to be placed in web articles or next to links that are legal in order to fool readers.

They want an immediate response from you.

One of the most prevalent characteristics of an attack using social engineering is a sense of urgency. Because hackers don’t want to give you time to evaluate the authenticity of their request, they may tell you that there is an emergency or that there is a deadline and that they need the information as quickly as they can get it. If the hacker is pretending to be a superior, a financial institution, or another significant entity, it might be quite challenging to put up a fight against them. Before responding to any demands for information, it is essential to verify their legitimacy, particularly those that come out of the blue.

How to safeguard your own safety

After you have become familiar with the telltale indications of a social engineering attack, you should think about implementing the procedures outlined below to defend yourself from further attacks.

Never click on links coming from unknown sources.

Never open an unsolicited email or click on a link to a free download that you see in an advertising. Fraudsters often include harmful links into emails or advertising that are shown online in order to get victims to download contaminated software onto their devices. If you get a questionable offer in an email or come across an advertisement that seems to be too good to be true, you should assume that it is a scam. If you click on the URL supplied without first checking its legitimacy, you might put your device at risk of being infected with malware or jeopardize important information.

Remove any information or support requests that seem to be suspicious.

If you get a request for information from a source that you are unable to verify, you should remove the message from your inbox and not click on any of the links or attachments it contains. By doing so, you prevent the possibility of opening it inadvertently at a later time or giving it to another person.

Update spam filters

There is a spam filter available in every email client you may use to prevent unsolicited or fraudulent communications from reaching your inbox. If you haven’t checked the settings for your spam filter in a while, you should go to the section of your email settings where you can make sure the filter is active and that it has the most recent updates. The vast majority of fundamental spam filters also provide customisation and block certain senders.

Secure your gadgets

Although cybersecurity technologies may not be able to stop all social engineering frauds, they may assist protect your device from malware if it is compromised during an attack in which you are a victim. Installing antivirus software on your devices is a wonderful first step in protecting yourself from malicious software and viruses. Antivirus software may also check for viruses. To make sure that your online accounts are as safe as they can possibly be, you should come up with passwords that are both strong and unique for each of your online accounts, and you should also change your login information on a frequent basis.

Attacks that are carried out using social engineering are particularly perilous since they circumvent conventional antivirus software and other cybersecurity technologies. You may, however, lessen the likelihood of being a victim of an attack on the condition that you remain alert and that you take the appropriate safety measures.