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!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags securitysocial 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

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?