Padlock / code / hacking

How to effectively handle social engineering attacks?

With the accelerated development of technology, businesses were forced to step up their security game. It doesn’t matter if the business is big or small, it is still in danger of many different types of cyber-attacks. Most companies are aware of the danger that comes with this new age of technology and have invested in cyber security by using different measures such as security programs, firewalls and encryption. But even though they are aware the threat can come from anywhere they seem to forget that even the best security systems can be breached with social engineering and something as simple as an employee trusting the wrong email.

It has been witnessed many times that social engineering attacks explain how people are actually prone to the repetitive habits and that in the end they are always going to be the weakest link in the security chain of any company.

What is social engineering?

In the simplest terms, social engineering is a process of using psychological manipulation to access sensitive or confidential data. It has actually been present since the beginning of the time with the first documented example being the story of Adam, Eve and their social engineer, snake. The other notable example in the history of social engineering could be found in the story of the Trojan horse but in the last few decades it has evolved and found the perfect growing ground online.

Hackers are getting more and more inventive in creating different methods to manipulate and fool individuals and most importantly employees to gain the access to sensitive information like account details, login credentials or any other confidential information and by doing so breaking standard security procedures. How can any security system actually be safe when it is depending on humans and possibility of human error? Any system is not going to be 100% safe but threat awareness and knowledge about the security practices is the best way to stay two steps ahead of cyber-attacks.

How can social engineering impact business?

  1. It can damage business reputation. Your clients put their trust in you, and cyber-attack can be extremely damaging for that relationship. The moment your clients stop believing that you can protect their information and sensitive data, they will stop being your clients.
  2. It will cause significant financial cost. Different cyber criminals will demand different things but most of them will want money to solve the issues they caused or you will have to invest a lot of time and money to find a solution to the damages cyber-attack has caused. In both cases your company will be in financial loss.
  3. It will stop normal operation of the business. All cyber-attack will create disruption in the operation side of any company. Your business will suffer until everything is resolved.

No matter how big or small your business is, you need to devise a proper way to protect it from these types of attacks.  In the headlines we might only hear about the big companies falling victim to cyber-attacks but the true story is completely different, small businesses are actually under even bigger risk as they are underestimating social engineering.

It is estimated that a majority of small businesses are not prepared to deal with a cyber-attack and that 3 out of 4 of them believe they don’t have enough personnel to address IT security.

Research also indicates that 43% of cyber-attacks target small businesses and the sad result of those attacks is that 60% of them will go out of business within six months of a cyber-attack.

How to prevent Social Engineering?

Danger social engineering brings to your company will never completely disappear, but there are steps you can take to effectively handle it.

    1. Educate ALL employees. Make sure you conduct cybersecurity training with all of your employees, regardless of their position in the company. You never know where the threat can come from. Keep yourself informed with the newest attack trends and implement that in the training.
    2. Be sceptical. Always check sources regardless if it’s an email header, invoice or even a phone call. You can always go to the company’s website to confirm the details from the email, or hang up the phone so you can call them back to confirm they are who they say they are. Don’t be afraid to question anything that seems suspicious because that fear of embarrassment is what is helping social engineers to manipulate people.
    3. Put the end on the weak passwords. Implement multi-factor authentications and educate your employees on the importance of properly setting up the passwords, and updating and regularly changing them. Passwords are never to be disclosed to anyone else, not even to your boss or system administrator.
    4. Create clear and understandable security policies. Employees need to know which steps they need to take when they encounter social engineering and what to do to prevent it.
    5. Educate your users. Make sure your users know when you will contact them, what type of data you will ask and also which ones you will never ask for. That way your users can help you fight against cyber-attacks.
    6. Secure all your devices. Install, maintain and update regularly your anti-virus and anti-malware software, firewalls, and email filters. Encourage your employees to only access secured websites.
    7. Ask for help. By hiring social engineering services you will strengthen even the weakest link on your security chain. These security experts and consultants will find all your weak spots by testing all aspects of your company like your website, offices and even your employees.

As you can see, education is the best answer. By educating everyone involved about all the dangers, you are effectively minimizing that danger. Don’t wait until you experience a cyber-attack to react, start the process now and protect your business.

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