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    6 Types of Social Engineering Attacks

    One of the best ways to keep yourself safe from a social engineering attack is to be able to identify them. Learn the six common types so you don't fall...

    6 Types of Social Engineering Attacks

    Posted by Mitnick Security on Apr 5, 2021 8:00:00 AM

    Social engineering attacks account for a massive portion of all cyber attacks, and studies show that these attacks are on the rise. According to KnowBe4, more than 90% of successful hacks and data breaches start with a common type of social engineering attack called phishing.

    Social engineers are clever and use manipulative tactics to trick their victims into disclosing private or sensitive information. Once a social engineer has tricked their victim into providing this information, they can use it to further their attacks.

    One of the best ways to keep yourself safe from a social engineering attack is to be able to identify them. Let's explore the six common types of social engineering attacks:

    1. Phishing

    Phishing is a social engineering technique in which an attacker sends fraudulent emails, claiming to be from a reputable and trusted source. For example, a social engineer might send an email that appears to come from a customer success manager at your bank. They could claim to have important information about your account but require you to reply with your full name, birth date, social security number and account number first so that they can verify your identity. Ultimately, the person emailing is not a bank employee; it's a person trying to steal private data.

    Phishing, in general, casts a wide net and tries to target as many individuals as possible. However, there are a few types of phishing that hone in on particular targets.

    Spear phishing is a type of targeted email phishing. In a spear phishing attack, the social engineer will have done their research and set their sites on a particular user. By scouring through the target's public social media profiles and using Google to find information about them, the attacker can create a compelling, targeted attack. Imagine that an individual regularly posts on social media that she is a member of a particular gym. In that case, the attacker could create a spear phishing email that appears to come from her local gym. The victim is more likely to fall for the scam since she recognized her gym as the supposed sender.Whaling is another targeted phishing scam. However, in whaling, rather than targeting an average user, social engineers focus on targeting higher-value targets like CEOs and CFOs. Whaling gets its name due to the targeting of the so-called "big fish" within a company.

    2. Vishing and Smishing

    While phishing is used to describe fraudulent email practices, similar manipulative techniques are practiced using other communication methods such as phone calls and text messages.

    Vishing (short for voice phishing) occurs when a fraudster attempts to trick a victim into disclosing sensitive information or giving them access to the victim's computer over the telephone. One popular vishing scheme involves the attacker calling victims and pretending to be from the IRS. The caller often threatens or tries to scare the victim into giving them personal information or compensation. Vishing scams like the one often target older-individuals, but anyone can fall for a vishing scam if they are not adequately trained.

    Smishing (short for SMS phishing) is similar to and incorporates the same techniques as email phishing and vishing, but it is done through SMS/text messaging.

    See some real life examples of phishing scams by reading our blog Social Engineering Attack Examples.

    3. Pretexting

    Pretexting is a type of social engineering technique where the attacker creates a scenario where the victim feels compelled to comply under false pretenses. Typically, the attacker will impersonate someone in a powerful position to persuade the victim to follow their orders.

    During this type of social engineering attack, a bad actor may impersonate police officers, higher-ups within the company, auditors, investigators or any other persona they believe will help them get the information they seek.

    4. Baiting

    Baiting puts something enticing or curious in front of the victim to lure them into the social engineering trap. A baiting scheme could offer a free music download or gift card in an attempt to trick the user into providing credentials.

    A social engineer may hand out free USB drives to users at a conference. The user may believe they are just getting a free storage device, but the attacker could have loaded it with remote access malware which infects the computer when plugged in.

    5. Tailgating and Piggybacking 

    Tailgating is a simplistic social engineering attack used to gain physical access to access to an unauthorized location. Tailgating is achieved by closely following an authorized user into the area without being noticed by the authorized user. An attacker may tailgate another individual by quickly sticking their foot or another object into the door right before the door is completely shut and locked.

    Piggybacking is exceptionally similar to tailgating. The main difference between the two is that, in a piggybacking scenario, the authorized user is aware and allows the other individual to "piggyback" off their credentials. An authorized user may feel compelled by kindness to hold a secure door open for a woman holding what appears to be heavy boxes or for a person claiming to be a new employee who has forgotten his access badge.

    Source : www.mitnicksecurity.com

    12 Types of Social Engineering Attacks to Look Out For

    This listicle blog will outline the different types of social engineering attacks and ways to prevent being targeted by them.

    12 Types of Social Engineering Attacks to Look Out For

    Published Date August 24, 2021 Author Team Copado

    Originally published by New Context.

    One of the biggest weaknesses in any organization’s cybersecurity strategy is human error. Social engineering attacks take advantage of this vulnerability by conning unsuspecting people into compromising security and giving out sensitive information. Social engineers use various psychological hacks to trick you into trusting them or create a false sense of urgency and anxiety to lower your natural defenses. Attackers can then breach your physical or technological security to steal money or confidential information.

    The only way to prevent being targeted by social engineering is to study the methods, psychological triggers, and technological tools these attackers use. Scammers use many different types of social engineering attacks, but some common giveaways can help you spot and avoid them.

    10 Types of Social Engineering Attacks

    To prevent a social engineering attack, you need to understand what they look like and how you might be targeted. These are the 10 most common types of social engineering attacks to be aware of.

    1. Phishing

    Phishing is the most common type of social engineering attack, typically using spoofed email addresses and links to trick people into providing login credentials, credit card numbers, or other personal information. Variations of phishing attacks include:

    Angler phishing – using spoofed customer service accounts on social mediaSpear phishing – phishing attacks that target specific organizations or individuals

    2. Whaling

    Whaling is another common variation of phishing that specifically targets top-level business executives and the heads of government agencies. Whaling attacks usually spoof the email addresses of other high-ranking people in the company or agency and contain urgent messaging about a fake emergency or time-sensitive opportunity. Successful whaling attacks can expose a lot of confidential, sensitive information due to the high-level network access these executives and directors have.

    3. Diversion Theft

    In an old-school diversion theft scheme, the thief persuades a delivery driver or courier to travel to the wrong location or hand off a parcel to someone other than the intended recipient. In an online diversion theft scheme, a thief steals sensitive data by tricking the victim into sending it to or sharing it with the wrong person. The thief often accomplishes this by spoofing the email address of someone in the victim’s company—an auditing firm or a financial institution, for example.

    4. Baiting

    Baiting is a type of social engineering attack that lures victims into providing sensitive information or credentials by promising something of value for free. For example, the victim receives an email that promises a free gift card if they click a link to take a survey. The link might redirect them to a spoofed Office 365 login page that captures their email address and password and sends them to a malicious actor.

    5. Honey Trap

    In a honey trap attack, the perpetrator pretends to be romantically or sexually interested in the victim and lures them into an online relationship. The attacker then persuades the victim to reveal confidential information or pay them large sums of money.

    6. Pretexting

    Pretexting is a fairly sophisticated type of social engineering attack in which a scammer creates a pretext or fabricated scenario—pretending to be an IRS auditor, for example—to con someone into providing sensitive personal or financial information, such as their social security number. In this type of attack, someone can also physically acquire access to your data by pretending to be a vendor, delivery driver, or contractor to gain your staff’s trust.

    7. SMS Phishing

    SMS phishing is becoming a much larger problem as more organizations embrace texting as a primary method of communication. In one method of SMS phishing, scammers send text messages that spoof multi-factor authentication requests and redirect victims to malicious web pages that collect their credentials or install malware on their phones.

    8. Scareware

    Scareware is a form of social engineering in which a scammer inserts malicious code into a webpage that causes pop-up windows with flashing colors and alarming sounds to appear. These pop-up windows will falsely alert you to a virus that’s been installed on your system. You’ll be told to purchase and download their security software, and the scammers will either steal your credit card information, install real viruses on your system, or (most likely) both.

    9. Tailgating/Piggybacking

    Tailgating, also known as piggybacking, is a social engineering tactic in which an attacker physically follows someone into a secure or restricted area. Sometimes the scammer will pretend they forgot their access card, or they’ll engage someone in an animated conversation on their way into the area so their lack of authorized identification goes unnoticed.

    10. Watering Hole

    Source : www.copado.com

    1.2 Social Engineering Attacks Flashcards

    Compare and contrast types of attacks Learn with flashcards, games, and more — for free.

    1.2 Social Engineering Attacks

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    social engineering

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    the art of deceiving people. Attacks happen via email, over the phone and in person. Social engineering is one of the most dangerous types of attacks because it has a high success rate.

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    the act of trying to deceive somebody to give up personal information or sensitive information. There are three avenues for phishing attacks: email, telephone, and in person.

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    1/12 Created by cgCompSci

    Compare and contrast types of attacks

    Terms in this set (12)

    social engineering

    the art of deceiving people. Attacks happen via email, over the phone and in person. Social engineering is one of the most dangerous types of attacks because it has a high success rate.


    the act of trying to deceive somebody to give up personal information or sensitive information. There are three avenues for phishing attacks: email, telephone, and in person.

    spear phishing

    phishing that targets an individual or a small group of people. Typically, spear phishing attacks are more sophisticated than mass phishing attacks; the attackers often know more about their targets and often stand to gain more if the target is compromised.


    a type of spear phishing that targets high-profile individuals, such as executives at public companies. Whaling attackers often take pains to learn a lot about their targets and successful attacks can yield much higher gains than other phishing attacks.


    phishing by telephone. While some people refer to this as phishing, vishing is the official term. With vishing, the goal is to gain sensitive or personal information from the person answering the phone. Often, the caller will impersonate another person, attempt to sound important and have a reason for requests to be expedited.


    when someone follows an authorized person into a restricted area, such as a corporate office building, without providing their own credentials, such as swiping their keycard. Tailgating attacks are dangerous because they give attackers physical access to your environment and computers.


    an attack where a malicious person attempts to impersonate a legitimate person or entity. Impersonation attacks can occur over email, over the web or in person.

    dumpster diving

    attackers simply sift through trash dumpsters looking for personal or sensitive information that they could use to carry out spear phishing or other attacks or enable them to steal somebody's identity. Attackers often look for electronic waste, too, such as disk drives, USB sticks and backup tapes.

    shoulder surfing

    when a person secretly watches the computer screen or keyboard of another user. It is an easy way to obtain passwords, logon methods and other sensitive information.


    a false claim to entice somebody to take a desired action. For example, an attacker might claim that you have won something or that they want to buy something from you so you will provide personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account information.

    watering hole attack

    typically targets a specific company. The attacker learns of websites that the company frequents (their watering holes) and attempts to place malware on those sites in hopes that someone at the company will get infected. Lesser known watering hole attacks can occur in person — an attacker might place infected USB sticks at the IT helpdesk or support area in a box with a sign reading, "Free USB sticks."

    why are social engineering attacks effective?

    authority, intimidation, consensus, scarcity, familiarity, trust, and urgency

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