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  • Writer's pictureMaddie Cohen

7 Types of Social Engineering Attacks

We recently discussed social engineering.


Social engineers are bad actors who manipulate their victims into sharing personal or other confidential information. In a social engineering attack, the bad actor will use the information they access to get inside a person or company’s private network or system.


There are seven common types of social engineering attacks. This post will offer an overview of each one.


1. Phishing

Phishing attacks involve fraudulent emails that appear to come from a legitimate source. If you think your bank might be reaching out but something just seems off, take a step back. Do not share your personal information via email or through a strange URL.


2. Spearphishing

Similar to phishing, spearphishing is a targeted form of social engineering. Here the bad actor researches that target, even going so far as to stalking them on social media. They then send emails from highly specific sources like a local restaurant or gym.


3. Smishing and vishing

We wish we’re kidding about these two. Smishing stands for SMS phishing and involves the abovementioned phishing techniques in text instead of email form. Vishing, or voice phishing, does the same thing via phone call or voicemail.


4. Baiting

Did someone email you an offer for a free gift card or monetary award? Chances are this is a baiting attempt from a social engineer. The goal here is to lure you in with an enticing prize, and then get you to share your personal information. Don’t fall for the trap!


5. Tailgating

This type of attack blends the physical and the digital. Here a bad actor gains physical access to your systems by following you to a location they aren’t authorized to be in. They may stick their foot in the door after you open it to keep it from closing or locking.


6. Pretexting

In this elaborate technique, the social engineer creates a situation where the victim feels they must comply. The bad actor may impersonate a client and demand that they forward a colleague’s bank information, for example.


7. Quid pro quo

This Latin phrase translates to “something for something” and refers to the exchange of service for information. An attacker may pretend to come from your service department and offer to make a repair—and then ask for your user credentials.


Does social engineering sound stressful? It can be. Yet awareness is the first step. By acknowledging that bad actors exist, you and your colleagues can mitigate threats before they become a problem.


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