Avoid Social Engineering Attacks
What is a social engineering attack?
In a social engineering attack, an attacker uses human interaction (social skills) to obtain or compromise information about an individual or organization or their computer systems. An attacker may seem unassuming and respectable, possibly claiming to be a new employee, repairperson, or researcher and even offering credentials to support that identity. However, by asking questions, he or she may be able to piece together enough information to obtain personal data.
Phishing is the most common form of social engineering. Phishing attacks use email or malicious websites to solicit personal information by posing as a trustworthy organization. It is always important to be careful when you read and review your email.
Think before you click on a link or attachment to avoid being a victim of a phishing attack.
One example of a phishing email, is when an attacker may send email seemingly from a reputable credit card company or financial institution that requests account information, often suggesting that there is a problem. When users respond with the requested information, attackers can use it to gain access to the accounts.
Common Indicators of a Phishing email
- Suspicious sender’s address- The sender's address may imitate a legitimate entity. Cybercriminals often use an email address that closely resembles one from a reputable company by altering or omitting a few characters.
- Generic greetings and signature- Both a generic greeting—such as “Dear Valued Customer” or “Sir/Ma’am”—and a lack of contact information in the signature block are strong indicators of a phishing email. A trusted organization will normally address you by name and provide their contact information.
- Spoofed hyperlinks– If you hover your cursor over any links in the body of the email, and the links do not match the text that appears when hovering over them, the link may be spoofed. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the website address may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com vs. .net). Additionally, cybercriminals may use a website address shortening service to hide the true destination of the link.
- Spelling and layout- Poor grammar and sentence structure, misspellings, and inconsistent formatting are other indicators of a possible phishing attempt.
- Suspicious attachments- An unsolicited email requesting a user download and open an attachment is a common delivery mechanism for malware. A cybercriminal may use a false sense of urgency or importance to help persuade a user to download or open an attachment without examining it first.
Vishing is the social engineering approach that uses phone calls to attempt to gain access to sensitive information. This technique can be combined with other forms of social engineering that would entice a victim to call a certain number and divulge sensitive information.
Smishing is a form of social engineering that exploits text messages. A smishing message can contain links that lead to a malicious website that can potentially install malware on your device or prompt a user for username and password information. In addition, other types of smishing attacks may provide email addresses or phone numbers to lead an individual to divulge sensitive information.
How Do You Avoid Being a Victim of Social Engineering?
- Be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls, visits, or email messages from individuals asking about sensitive or private information. If an unknown individual claims to be from a legitimate organization, try to verify his or her identity directly with the company.
- Do not provide personal information or information about yourself and/or business.
- Do not reveal personal or financial information in email, and do not respond to email solicitations for this information. This includes following links sent via email.
- Do not send sensitive information over the internet before checking a website's security by checking if the site uses an encrypted connection. An easy way to verify is to make sure the website address starts with https (ex. https://www.enorthfield.com)
- Pay attention to the website address or URL of a website. Look for misspellings or different variations including numbers or other characters.
- If you are unsure whether an email request is legitimate, try to verify it by contacting the company directly. Do not use contact information provided on a website connected to the request; instead, check your previous statements for the legitimate contact information.
- Install and maintain anti-virus software, firewalls, and email filters to reduce some of these attempts.
- Take advantage of any anti-phishing features offered by your email client and web browser.
- Use a unique and long password for the systems you access.
- Enable multi-factor authentication where available for any system or service that contains or stores sensitive information.
What Do You Do if You Think You are a Victim?
If you believe your financial accounts may be compromised, contact the Bank immediately and close any accounts that may have been compromised. Watch for any unexplainable charges to your account.
- Immediately change any passwords you might have revealed. If you used the same password for multiple resources, make sure to change it for each account, and do not use that password in the future.
- Report the incident to law enforcement and the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (ic3.gov)