The human element: Four types of social engineering

In the ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape, credit unions face a persistent and formidable adversary: social engineering. Crafty attackers exploit human psychology to manipulate and deceive credit union employees, members, or stakeholders, enabling them to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information or execute fraudulent activities. As financial institutions are built on trust and integrity, credit unions must be vigilant in understanding and countering these insidious tactics.

According to IBM, social engineering attacks “manipulate people into sharing information they shouldn’t share, downloading software they shouldn’t download, visiting websites they shouldn’t visit, sending money to criminals, or making other mistakes that compromise their personal or organizational security.” Social engineering attacks seek to gain information and can take many different forms, making it harder to pinpoint the cybercriminal’s entry point.

From collecting publicly available information on social media to learn more about the target to build their plan of attack to conducting search engine analysis, these tactics can take multiple forms. Social engineering tactics also identify valuable tools and information that potential victims might seek and be more likely to interact with.

In this post, we uncover four social engineering techniques that pose significant risks to credit unions and explore effective strategies to fortify your defenses. Credit unions can bolster their security posture and safeguard their valuable assets by staying informed and proactive.

Four common types of social engineering

  1. Scareware: An attack that bombards victims with false alarms and fictitious threats about their devices. Victims are misled to think that their systems are infected with malware, prompting them to install malicious software or malware itself. In one of the most extreme cases, following a massive credit theft from a major retailer, cardholders were contacted through phone calls and asked to update their security measures. Of course, the calls came from cybercriminals collecting victims’ PINs and passwords.
  2. Baiting: A form of social engineering that incentivizes users to take an action the attacker wants. These attacks often include offers of gifts, exclusive offers, courier packages, and other well-known “lures.” Engaged users give up their personal information or sign up for fictitious accounts, exposing their passwords. Attackers can also trick you into downloading malware. Since passwords are often recycled across multiple accounts, this can create a severe breach and risk to the organization.
  3. Spear Phishing: These attacks target individuals within a company who have seniority, rank, authority, and access to critical systems. Cybercriminals will use spear phishing to steal credentials. Spear Phishing is perhaps one of the most challenging forms of engineering because it is extremely difficult to distinguish from legitimate traffic and communications.
  4. Quid Pro Quo: This type of attack centers around an exchange of service or information convincing the victim to act. Typically, the cybercriminal deceives a victim by impersonating an IT employee and promises rewards or leverages implicit work motivations to the victim for information that can be used to steal money or take control of a company account or data.

Social engineering schemes happen daily; some techniques are more well-known than others. However, unlike other cyberattacks, human interaction is a critical component of social engineering, which should make your credit union think more carefully about your daily interactions on the internet. These attacks underline the importance of understanding that attacks are much harder to identify and often dupe employees in the early stages of a much larger cyber campaign.

Training is key to proactive defense against social engineering

Employees are your credit union’s first line of defense regarding protection from social engineering methods. If employees are not appropriately trained against these tactics, your security software can only defend you until someone clicks on a malicious link. Yes, there are ways to hunt these threats before they take over your IT network, but it’s best to think proactively and put the fire out at the source.

Finding and implementing the right Proactive Security Awareness program will empower employees with skills to find and report suspicious activity. These are not just one-off sessions that overwhelm employees with information they soon will forget. It’s consistent training that creates a positive cybersecurity culture within the organization. In addition, implementing training ensures your credit union complies with set industry regulations and set policies and tracks and trains high-risk users.

Learn more about how Adlumin’s Managed Detection and Response Services  and  Security Operations Platform can empower your team to illuminate threats, eliminate cyber risk, and command authority. Contact us today, schedule a demo, or sign-up for a free trial.


Contact the author: Adlumin

Contact the author: Adlumin

Brittany Holmes

Brittany Holmes

Brittany Holmes is Corporate Communications Manager at Adlumin Inc., a cybersecurity technology firm. She focuses on content creation and management for Adlumin emphasizing cybersecurity best practices, risks, and solutions across ... Web: Details