Whenever people think of cybercrimes, their first instinct is to think that it involves fancy hacking and software to compromise people’s data and force their way to access their private assets. However, the truth is that it’s way easier to deceive someone into getting their confidential details than trying to hack their password, unless, of course, the password is super weak. This art of deception is called “social engineering.”
Social engineering is a manipulation technique that exploits human error to gain private information, access, or valuables. These “human hacking” scams in cybercrime lure unsuspecting users into exposing data by using social engineering tactics, which involve psychological manipulation to trick unsuspecting victims into giving away sensitive information or making other security mistakes.
In this article, we’ll delve deeper into the nuances of social engineering and what you need to know to stay safe and protect your crypto assets from cyber attackers.
How Does Social Engineering Work?
Cyber attackers who employ social engineering as a tactic often work by motivating users to compromise themselves rather than forcefully hacking their way into the victim’s privacy. It’s like a thief who hypnotizes someone to collect their house key instead of burgling their way through.
Social engineering could be as simple as asking unsuspecting questions via social media, including personal information and, perhaps, answers to security questions.
By baiting unsuspecting victims into seemingly harmless conversations, attackers can get your security details, including your favorite crypto wallet, your crypto investments, how much you have, and other possible security questions about your childhood, family, pets, education, and other interests.
Social engineering involves a lot of patience; the process of accumulating information from normal, everyday transactions could take weeks, or even months via social media interactions, via social or physical interactions, or both.
The goal is to know enough about you to infiltrate your private asset information or gain access to your company’s information through you.
How To Identify A Social Engineering Attempt
The hallmark of social engineering attacks often manifests through weird and urgent requests.
Consider, for instance, a scenario where personal information shared on social media subtly intertwines. If you have ever mentioned on Facebook about living with your brother for the past five years and, in a seemingly unrelated conversation, mentioned how your best friend is your diary, without explicitly disclosing any confidential details online, malevolent actors may seek to exploit vulnerabilities by compromising your brother’s security.
These attackers might craft a deceptive email address closely resembling yours, making it indistinguishable at first glance. They would then approach the sibling with a peculiar and urgent plea, such as
"Hey brother, my phone encountered damage during my commute to work, and I urgently require access to my cryptocurrency wallets. Please check my diary for the seed phrases and password and promptly email them back. I will provide comprehensive details when we are home, but immediate access to my wallets is crucial."
While the recipient indeed has a diary and shares a residence with the target, the request appears abnormal and pressingly exigent. Without delving deeper into the matter, the sibling may unwittingly succumb to the ploy, relinquishing sensitive information under the assumption that it is a legitimate request.
Such social engineering tactics are commonly deployed against employees and their employers, often taking the form of Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams. These schemes exploit information casually scattered online, emphasizing the critical need for vigilance in safeguarding personal and professional data.
Common Cyber Attacks Derived From Social Engineering
- Phishing: Phishing is a prevalent social engineering attack where deceptive emails, messages, or websites are crafted to appear trustworthy, often mimicking legitimate entities. The aim is to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information such as login credentials, seed phrases, or other personal data.
- Baiting: Baiting involves the promise of a reward or benefit to entice individuals into taking a specific action, such as clicking on a malicious link or downloading malware. Common examples include offers for free software, movies, or music, exploiting the recipient's curiosity or desire for gain.
- Pretexting: In pretexting, attackers create a fabricated scenario or pretext to manipulate individuals into revealing information.
Like the example shared in the previous section, pretexting often involves building a false sense of trust by posing as a trustworthy figure, such as a colleague, service provider, or even a superior, to extract sensitive details or access privileges.
- Quid Pro Quo: Quid pro quo attacks involve the exchange of something valuable in return for information or access. For instance, attackers may offer IT assistance, software, or other seemingly beneficial services in exchange for login credentials or confidential data. Once the exchange occurs, the attacker exploits the obtained information for malicious purposes.
- Tailgating: Tailgating, also known as piggybacking, occurs when an unauthorized person gains access to confidential information by getting close to an authorized individual.
Tailgating is typically physical; it can involve a person spending months to get closer to you, close enough that you get carefree with them, until a point where they can easily compromise your credentials while they are around you.
It's important to know that all of these attacks can be completely random, or they can be tailored to target you, specifically based on the information you have carelessly shared in conversations, status updates, social media interactions, and many more.
How To Protect Yourself From Social Engineering Attacks
- Don’t overshare personal information on the internet
- Always double-check email addresses, even from familiar people
- Be wary of accepting friend requests or connection requests from people you don’t know on social media
- Don’t be greedy; if an offer is too good to be true, then it probably is
- Use strong, unique passwords
- If someone you know requests a piece of sensitive information, independently verify their identity by contacting them via a different means.
- Use crypto wallets that enable multi-factor authentication, like Cwallet.
- Trust your instincts; if something feels off, then maybe you should be wary.
As mentioned repeatedly within this article, the general rule of thumb for staying safe against social engineering attacks is to ensure that you don't have too many personal details scattered on the internet. More importantly, stay vigilant and strictly adhere to cybersecurity protocols - employ strong passwords, don’t repeat passwords, and always use multiple layers of authentication.
Lastly, choose crypto wallet services that are secure and also help you maintain self-security with high standards!