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How to Protect Against Social Engineering Attacks

Social engineering attacks inspire fear because they exploit people — not just technology. Social engineering tactics can be simple phishing emails, complex cons where attackers gain trust over many months, or anything in between. They often take advantage of both publicly available and stolen information, and may use data from one hack to stage another.

Security tools like encryption help prevent social engineering attacks, but you still need to address the human element. Companies should work towards a collaborative security culture, where workers are empowered to speak up when they see something suspicious, and security staff are available to quickly investigate and remediate risks.

How to Protect Against Social Engineering Attacks

Use Clear Policies to Defeat Social Engineering

Social engineers are masters of manipulating people to gain trust, access and information. Business email compromise attacks and other attacks with a strong social component often work by impersonating people the worker has dealt with and pressuring them to act quickly. For example, a scammer may impersonate the CEO and try to convince an accountant to wire money to close an urgent deal.

Having clear, explicit rules disrupts these sorts of social engineering attacks. There should be no wiggle room for emergency money transfers, or emailing personal information outside of normal procedures. This will make it much harder for social attackers to con workers.

Social Engineering Prevention is Everyone’s Job

A sense of collective responsibility is a potent defense against social engineering attacks. Workers should be encouraged to ask questions, give feedback, and report mistakes without fear of punishment. CEOs should be held to the same (or higher) security standards as entry level workers — after all, they’re the most valuable targets. It’s impossible to police everything that happens in your organization, but you can create a secure and empowered community that is diligent and aware.

Social Media: An Easy Target For Social Engineering

Recent headlines show just how easily social engineering attacks can exploit publicly available information. Thieves can learn when people are traveling, where they are staying, just by reading social media posts. The same techniques could be used to compromise your secure business data, hack your personal bank accounts, or break into your house.

It’s important to the cautious about the information you share publicly. Assume everything you share on social media is publicly available, and could be used to facilitate social engineering attacks.

Prevent Social Engineering Attacks by Protecting Your Account

End users often put their companies at risk with passwords that are vulnerable to social engineering attacks. If your password uses publicly available info like your child’s name or your spouse’s birthday, a hacker will be able to crack it.

Use strong passwords, change them frequently, and never reuse them between accounts. Whenever possible, back them up with multi-factor authentication so that a hacker won’t be able to access your account just by guessing your password. G Suite security can mandate strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, and other good security practices, improving good account access practices. However, it’s still important to provide regular security training so workers are equipped with best practices and aware of the latest risks.

Encrypt Everything to Foil Opportunistic Social Engineering Attacks

If social engineering attackers can’t read your data, they can’t use it. Encrypting emails prevents bad guys from intercepting them in transit, making it much harder to target you and your organization.

Virtru data protection software also allows you to reduce the risks of social attacks by controlling who has access to your data. You can rescind emails, set time limits on sensitive information, and disable forwarding to prevent your recipient from passing a document on.

Security is Self Defense

Social engineering attacks are just another way that unscrupulous people try to steal for personal gain. Don’t let fear overwhelm you. With the right tools and a little training, you can greatly reduce the risks. Use these resources to help:

6 Common Ways Employees Compromise Enterprise Data Security (And What You Can Do About It)
Restoring Trust in the Age of Business Email Compromise Attacks
3 Ways to Recall an Email You’ve Already Sent
Encryption Basics: Keys, Handshakes, and Certificates