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Why should your company fear social engineering?

Ryan Jackson  |  January 16, 2018

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Cybersecurity may be the biggest issue facing the enterprise. The costs of dealing with an attack are through the roof, and experts believe it's only going to get worse. The Official 2017 Annual Cybercrime Report from Cybersecurity Ventures predicted that by 2021, cybercrime would cost the worldwide economy around $6 trillion

With so much money funneling into the criminal underground, it's easy to see why so many companies are terrified of a hack. To satisfy this urgent need for data safety, businesses have started to invest in highly-complex technologies aimed at catching digital incursions before they get out of hand. These systems are certainly necessary in this day an age, but many administrators mistakenly think they're the only way to secure information. 

In fact, many hackers actually rely on a technique called social engineering. This approach is incredibly successful, mainly due to the fact that companies don't plan for it. To help officials stave off such an attack, let's explore exactly what social engineering is and what you can do to prevent it. 

How does social engineering work? 

Although the term is used to discuss a certain type of attack, social engineering actually encompasses a wide range of hacking techniques. That said, they basically all boil down to using human error to accomplish a goal. 

For instance, a hacker may come to find that he needs login credentials to access a certain data set. One popular technique in such a situation involves the hacker calling the front desk to say that they've just been hired at the company. They could spin a sob story about not being able to gain access to a certain system and will plead for help. If this cybercriminal has the right charisma, he can pretty easily persuade someone into giving him exactly what he wants. 

Another way hackers rely on social engineering is by physically breaking into a company's office. In the same scenario where the cybercriminal needs login credentials, he might put on a pair of overalls and say he's an electrician. If he can make it past the front desk, he might get lucky enough to find a person's username and password written on a sticky note on their computer. If he's not that fortunate, he could even install a keylogger on someone's machine that could give him the information he needs. 

Every person allowed into the office needs to be vetted. That friendly electrician may not be as innocent as he looks.

While these two scenarios aren't the only ways social engineering techniques are deployed, the point is that all of these attacks rely on unearned trust from your employees. People want to help those in need, and hackers use this desire to get what they want. 

Companies just aren't prepared

Due to the fact that social engineering relies on good-hearted people just trying to be nice, there's a real chance that your company is at risk. This is especially true of employees who have to be helpful by nature of their position, such as receptionists and HR workers. However, this epidemic reaches just about every inch of most companies. 

"Two-thirds of employees will give out information like their Social Security numbers."

A security company called Social-Engineer took a deep look into just how big of an issue this hacking technique is. They found that around 90 percent of employees will give up their names and email addresses without even confirming who's calling. That's certainly an issue, but the real problem is that around two-thirds of employees will give out information like their Social Security numbers. On top of that, Social-Engineer has a perfect record when it comes to physically breaking into an office, which shows just how vulnerable companies are. 

How can you avoid an attack? 

Clearly, a majority of companies are in serious risk of a breach due to social engineering. Thankfully, there are some steps administrators can take in order to lessen the chances of an employee making a grave error. 

To begin, you'll want to hold a mandatory meeting for all employees about security. If possible, try to break up the courses by department so you can discuss specific needs with all the different professionals at your company.At these meetings, you'll need to discuss social engineering attacks like impersonation and phishing, as well as how to report these issues should one arise. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you'll want to lower the number of individuals who have access to admin privileges. The more people you have with access to every system, the larger your attack surface area. 

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Ryan Jackson

Ryan Jackson brings more than 20 years of experience in IT management to ISG Technology. He most recently served as Computer Sciences Corporation’s Global Director for Account Service Delivery, Big Data Analytics and Business Intelligence. He has worked across several industries including A&D, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Insurance, Telecom, Consumer Products/Retail, Pharmaceutical and Transportation. As CTO, Ryan serves as head of the company’s client-centric product/service development and related technology operations, providing key leadership in ISG’s ongoing commitment to helping clients drive business innovation through unique technology solutions.
About

Ryan Jackson brings more than 20 years of experience in IT management to ISG Technology. He most recently served as Computer Sciences Corporation’s Global Director for Account Service Delivery, Big Data Analytics and Business Intelligence. He has worked across several industries including A&D, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Insurance, Telecom, Consumer Products/Retail, Pharmaceutical and Transportation. As CTO, Ryan serves as head of the company’s client-centric product/service development and related technology operations, providing key leadership in ISG’s ongoing commitment to helping clients drive business innovation through unique technology solutions.

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