Would it be fair to say that this sentence is trying to bait or manipulate you into reading the rest of this blog post?
Well, there is something that salespeople, writers, and cyberattackers have in common. In the best sense, it is trying to tell a convincing story, and in the worst, it’s outright manipulation; either way, we call this social engineering. Social engineering testing tools are solutions that can help you combat this form of cyberattack. And hopefully, we have “baited” you into learning something new.
What is Social Engineering?
Social engineering is a type of cyberattack that does not always involve the use of technology.
The most easily exploitable vulnerability is human nature. Attackers will use social techniques to gain access to sensitive data or physical spaces. There are some “standard” social engineering techniques that attackers widely use. But the most sophisticated attackers will employ an approach that is unique to each organization. For this reason, proofing your organization against social engineering is essential. Organizations usually achieve this through increasing the general security awareness of staff, but having programs that deal specifically with social engineering may be more effective.
What Are Social Engineering Testing Tools?
Social engineering testing tools are techniques, procedures, and software that help test the organization’s social engineering resilience. Social engineering targets the people within the organization, so the tools are designed to test them specifically. You can read more about the testing processes in the section titled “Social Engineering Penetration Testing,” but first, let’s learn about the types of social engineering commonly seen.
Typical Types of Social Engineering
As briefly mentioned in the introduction, the most sophisticated and dangerous type of social engineering attack is unique to your organization. Attackers may spend months “casing” your organization for a weakness. They are so relentless that there have been cases of attackers befriending employees through social media, carrying the relationship for months to gain access to the network eventually.
Fortunately, these cases are rare. However, with some basic security training, you can significantly mitigate the chance of that type of attack being successful. Some generic types of social engineering attacks are more akin to casting a wide net than a personal vendetta.
The most common type of social engineering attack, phishing, is an attack that tries to bait the victim into clicking a link or giving up information via email.
An attacker will use a botnet to send spoofed emails to many targets, hoping a few will click the email link. They will use social techniques like authority, hijacking a reputable company’s name (like Google or Paypal). They hope you will not notice that the email is not authentic; the success depends on how well the attacker fools the target.
There are two other forms of phishing that use the same techniques as email phishing but use different communication mediums, and those are:
- Vishing: the phone version of phishing, calling the victim and baiting them via voice.
- Smishing: the SMS version of phishing, baiting victims through text messaging.
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As the name suggests, this social engineering technique refers to attackers impersonating others to access the systems.
The size of the organization will dictate the success of this strategy. Larger organizations might be more susceptible as attackers have a higher chance of communicating with some who would not know any better.
Attackers might impersonate a high-level member of the organization (executive level) to steal sensitive information.
This rather unsavory technique has attackers scrounging through the bins. They do this to look for any sensitive data discarded inappropriately. They may find memos that give away important information like employee schedules or even passwords written down on a piece of paper.
As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, in this case, the keys to the kingdom. Ensure you destroy any physical documentation properly before trashing it (a paper shredder works well).
This rather exciting form of social engineering involves attackers leaving USBs lying around. The idea behind this is the attacker hopes that a victim (possibly an employee) will pick it up and plug it in. Once plugged in, the USB will install malware that gives the attacker backdoor access to the system. There are many more forms of social engineering, but these are some of the most common, and thankfully they are easy to defend against if you know what you are doing.
In the next section, we will examine some testing techniques to help your organization defend itself against social engineering attacks.
Social Engineering Penetration Testing
The complete testing tool that is currently available is social engineering penetration testing (pen-testing). The reason social pen-testing works the best is that it is conducted well; it can expose weaknesses while also giving you ways to fix them.
Much like an infrastructure pen-test, the social engineering pen-test involves a trained security team thinking like an attacker.
They will employ some of the techniques listed above in your organization in a safe manner. If successful, they will gain access to your system only using social engineering. There are generally two parts to pen-testing:
- On-site testing: testing physical security, like office buildings or server rooms. It will also try security policies, like clean workstations and password management (if staff sticky note passwords to their desktops, for example).
- Off-site testing: this is to test social engineering resilience over the internet using phishing techniques, etc.
There is a pretty standard approach to social engineering pen-testing, and it looks a little bit like this:
- Information Gathering: initial phase requires the team to gather as much intel about the staff as possible. Who clocks on when, what kind of things they like, staff politics, etc.
- Attack Vectors or Victim Selection: through step one, the team should have enough information to find a technical vulnerability. Or a victim who is not very security-aware and feels mistreated (you would be surprised how greed can sway loyalty).
- Execution: once the team identifies a vector or victim, it is time for the pen-team to put the plan into action. The success will depend on how well they can infiltrate against how resilient your organization is.
- Reporting: Finally, the team will document all information and will recommend how the organization can plug the vulnerability.
In almost all cases, you will need to employ a staff awareness training program. No matter how well prepared you think you are, upkeep on security awareness and training is essential to keeping a good security posture.
A technical solution for combating social engineering comes in the form of anti-phishing tools. Although not as complete as pen-testing, they are good at identifying this specific social engineering area.
Anti-Phishing works by employing authentication tools in email addresses to identify emails sent to an account from genuine users. These tools are an exemplary implementation for internal organizational communication.
How RSI Security Can Help You
Social engineering is a genuine concern for unprepared organizations. Sometimes employing the proper social engineering testing tools can make all the difference. But without a security partner backing you up, the tools are ineffective. This is where RSI Security comes in; as a premier managed security service provider, we can help you with your security needs.
Get in contact with us today, and schedule a consultation here.
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