At the heart of your business lies a highly complex, highly confidential network of data; ensuring that you have an impenetrable first line of defence – a strong cyber security software – is essential to the privacy and safety of all your data. If potential human threats to your cyber-security are aware of your advanced security mechanisms, their methods of attack are altered, leaving you and your employees as the last line of defence against the pending breach. An attack of this nature, which focuses on the exploitation of human employees, is referred to as social engineering – a threat which requires immediate attention and a prevention strategy.
Social engineering is a term used to describe a variety of ill-intended cyber activities which rely on human interaction rather than the digital components of a virus, for example. One party, a cybercriminal, uses psychological manipulation on another party, the cyber-attack victim, to deceive them into providing access to their business’ confidential data by stealing their personal information (name, DOB, NI number etc). This social method of breaching cyber-security is frequently used by criminals in order to carry out targeted attacks on businesses. Without the tools necessary to prevent such attacks, your employees, their confidential data and their money, as well as that of the company, are at major risk.
How does it work?
Social engineering attacks are often played out in multiple stages. To gain an access point, cybercriminals may collect as much publicly available information on an individual before reaching out to them. A connection of false trust, built on deceit, is then established in order to make the victim more susceptible to revealing confidential information that would enable the attacker to access the data or funds that they wish to infiltrate and steal.
The most common form of social engineering is called ‘Phishing’: a cybercriminal attempts to steal private information by misdirecting an individual to a bad link or a dodgy website that might download a virus. If you have ever received a suspicious, spontaneous message from an unknown source claiming that you have won a free iPad or a car, the chances are that you have been targeted for a cyber-attack – not to fear, however, as preventing social engineering security breaches can be made simple when you work with experts who know what they are doing.
What’s the worst that could happen?
In the event that a cybercriminal conducts a successful attack on one of your employees and gains access to the information they desire, the consequences can be detrimental to your business.
Depending on the nature and agenda of the attack, both confidential information or monetary assets can be stolen: you want to avoid both. If information is the target, then a leak would result in a breach of your confidentiality with clients, with partners, and with employees, resulting in a PR nightmare and a mountain to climb to rebuild reputation. If money is the target, well; that one speaks for itself. It has been reported that the average financial loss to a business resulting from malware attacks is $2.4 million.
So what can you do?
It is essential to be prepared for social engineering attacks, from the top to the bottom of your organisation. New employees are the most vulnerable to these sorts of attacks as their freshness is accompanied by a naivety that is preyed upon by cybercriminals.
Ignorance breeds breaches in this case, so it is imperative to become educated on the types of social engineering, how to recognise them and how to avoid them. Continually educating your employees on these topics will massively reduce your risk of suffering an attack.
For example, if social engineering emails are identified within your organisation, it is important to report these and delete them as soon as possible – this prevents further breaches. The importance of ensuring your technology, particularly your anti-virus software, is up-to-date and as impenetrable as possible cannot be overstated. Having strong and secure WiFi networks, as well as ensuring high levels of privacy in passwords company-wide all contribute to the prevention of social engineering attacks. Multiple Factor Authentication as a secondary form of security might also be worth considering if you would truly like to protect your sensitive information. The consideration, education, and implementation of these methods, to name just a few, can go a long way to reducing your vulnerability to these types of attack. If you suspect you have been victim to an attack, the checking and securing of all of these processes can help to stunt the attacker and prevent further attacks.
Social engineering can come in a variety of forms – many of which are difficult to identify. Since these attacks can seriously harm your business, its reputation, and its financial stability; it’s important not to fail here!
But don’t feel overwhelmed – our cyber experts can help you every step of the way to getting your business more secure. Why not make a start with our FREE IT Connectivity Business Review.