Social Engineering Attacks – How they work and how to protect your business

Social Engineering Attacks

Cyber threats and fraud are continually evolving. This has led to the emergence of social engineering attacks. Cybercriminals use these attacks to gain unauthorised access to sensitive data or systems. These attacks manipulate people psychologically.

They exploit human vulnerabilities to deceive victims. This deception leads victims to share confidential information or doing things that go against their own interests.

This article will explore the various types of social engineering attacks. We will examine the tactics utilised by attackers. Additionally, we will look at the potential consequences for businesses that are victims of these attacks. We will also provide actionable steps that businesses can take to protect themselves from social engineering attacks and mitigate the risks associated with them.

Moreover, we will delve into the evolving landscape of social engineering attacks in the digital age and how businesses can stay ahead of emerging threats to stay secure.

What are social engineering attacks?

A social engineering attack is a type of cyber-attack that exploits human psychology and behaviour to trick individuals or organisations into divulging sensitive information, granting unauthorised access, or performing actions that are against their best interests. These attacks are typically executed through various techniques such as phishing emails, pretexting, baiting, or other methods that aim to manipulate victims into trusting the attacker and revealing confidential data.

Social engineering attacks are fraudulent threats that can have serious consequences, ranging from data breaches and financial losses to identity theft and reputational damage. Since social engineering attacks target the weakest link in the security chain, which is human beings, they are often more successful than traditional hacking methods.

Therefore, it is essential to raise awareness about the risks of social engineering attacks, implement proper security protocols, and educate employees on how to recognise and avoid these tactics to prevent data loss or financial damage. Regular security audits and testing can also help identify and mitigate vulnerabilities that could be exploited by social engineering attackers.

Types of social engineering attacks and how they work

Cybercriminals and fraudsters use various social engineering techniques to carry out various types of attacks. These are the most common types of social engineering attacks and how they work:

Phishing attacks

Phishing scams use fake emails that appear to come from legitimate sources, such as banks or online retailers, to trick victims into revealing personal information or clicking on malicious links. These emails may ask for login credentials or financial information and may direct victims to fake websites that resemble the real ones.


Pretexting involves creating a fictional scenario to convince victims to reveal confidential information or perform actions that are against their best interests. For example, a pretexting scam might involve posing as a bank employee to obtain a victim’s account details or as a trusted authority to gain access to a secured facility.


Baiting attacks use enticing offers, such as free software or discounts, to lure victims into clicking on malicious links or downloading malware. These attacks often appear on file-sharing sites or peer-to-peer networks and can compromise entire networks if one user falls for the bait.

Quid pro quo

Quid pro quo attacks promise something in exchange for sensitive information or access. For example, an attacker might offer a victim a free gift card in exchange for their login credentials or a security question.


Tailgating involves an attacker following a legitimate user into a secure facility or system, such as a data centre or office, by pretending to be an authorised user or by piggybacking on the user’s access. Once inside, the attacker can access sensitive information or systems.

Spear phishing

Spear phishing is a more targeted form of phishing that involves researching and gathering information about a specific individual or organisation to create highly personalised and convincing fake emails. These attacks often appear to come from someone the victim knows, such as a coworker or boss, making them more difficult to detect.

Watering hole attacks

Watering hole attacks involve compromising a legitimate website that a specific group of individuals or organisations frequents, such as an industry-specific forum or news site. The attackers inject malicious code into the website, which then leads to anyone who visits the site, having their computer infected with malware.


Vishing, or voice phishing, involves using phone calls or voice messages to trick users into divulging sensitive information. The attackers may pose as bank employees or government representatives and use social engineering tactics to gain the victim’s trust and obtain personal information.


SMSishing is similar to phishing, but it uses text messages instead of emails. The messages often contain a call to action, such as clicking on a link or providing personal information.

By being aware of the different types of social engineering attacks and how they work, individuals and organisations can take steps to prevent and mitigate the risks associated with these attacks. This includes implementing security awareness training for employees, keeping software and systems up to date, and using multi-factor authentication for sensitive accounts.

How do social engineering attacks happen

Social engineering attacks typically involve several steps, which may include the following:

  • Research and targeting

The attacker conducts research on the victim or organisation to gather the information that can be used to personalise the attack. This might involve looking up the victim’s social media profiles, searching public records, or using other sources to gather information.

  • Building trust

The attacker establishes a relationship or connection with the victim, often using social engineering tactics to build trust. This might involve pretending to be a co-worker, supplier, or other trusted contacts to gain access to sensitive information.

  • Exploiting vulnerabilities

The attacker uses various tactics to exploit vulnerabilities in the victim’s security defences. This might involve sending a phishing email or text message that contains a link to a fake and malicious website or downloading malware onto the victim’s computer.

  • Obtaining information

Once the attacker has gained access to the victim’s computer or network, they may use various techniques to obtain sensitive information. This might involve installing keylogging software to capture login credentials or stealing sensitive data stored on the victim’s computer.

  • Covering tracks

After obtaining the desired information, the attacker may attempt to cover their tracks to avoid detection. This might involve deleting files or logs that show evidence of the attack or using encryption or other techniques to make the stolen data more difficult to access.

Overall, social engineering attacks rely on psychological manipulation and deception. So, why do cyber attackers commonly use social engineering attacks? Attackers exploit human psychology and emotions to trick people. This gives away sensitive information or causes people to perform actions that compromise security. This ultimately benefits the attacker.

By understanding their tactics, individuals and organisations can take steps to protect themselves from these types of attacks. 

How to prevent social engineering attacks

Preventing social engineering attacks requires a multi-faceted approach that involves adopting a holistic style and method. Here are some tips on how to avoid social engineering attacks to help prevent them:

  • Employee training

One of the most important steps in preventing social engineering attacks is to provide employees with regular security awareness training. This training should cover the different types of social engineering attacks, how to identify them, and what steps employees can take to prevent them. It should also cover fraud prevention and detection, including how to recognise and report suspicious behaviour.

  • Implement security policies

Having clear security policies in place can help employees understand their responsibilities and minimise the risk of social engineering attacks. This should include policies for password management, access controls, and data protection. Strong identity proofing and authentication can also be implemented, such as requiring multiple forms of identification or using biometric data.

  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Using multi-factor authentication for sensitive accounts can make it much more difficult for attackers to gain access. This can include using a combination of something the user knows, such as a password, and something they have, such as a security token or biometric data. This can be used by banks when users make certain transactions such as credit card payments, or when a user is trying to access their email account from a new device,

  • Use fraud detection and prevention tools

Fraud detection and prevention systems can play a critical role in preventing social engineering attacks by using advanced algorithms and data analytics to identify suspicious behaviour and prevent fraudulent activities. Fraud detection and prevention systems can monitor user behaviour in real-time, allowing them to quickly detect and respond to suspicious activity. This includes monitoring login attempts, transactions, and other user activities to identify potential fraud.

  • Identity proofing and authentication

Identity proofing techniques, such as verifying the user’s identity through biometric data, ID verification, two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication helps prevent attackers from using stolen credentials or impersonating legitimate users.

  • Keep software and systems up to date

Regularly updating software and systems can help prevent social engineering attacks by patching known vulnerabilities. This includes updating operating systems, antivirus software, and web browsers. It can also include implementing fraud detection and prevention tools, such as machine learning algorithms that analyse user behaviour to detect and prevent fraud.

  • Be wary of suspicious requests

Employees should be trained to be suspicious of any requests for personal or sensitive information, especially if they come from an unfamiliar source or via an unsolicited email or phone call. They should also be trained to report any suspicious activity to their IT or security team immediately.

Individuals and organisations can help prevent social engineering attacks and reduce the risk of data breaches and other security incidents. This can be done by following certain steps. It is essential to be attentive and aware of potential social engineering attacks. Attackers are continuously creating new and more complex methods, therefore, prevention must be continual. 

Preventing social engineering attacks with Udentify

Many organisations may wonder how to stop social engineering attacks from happening. The best way to start is to secure and protect their data and customers’ information and accounts. This can be done by properly verifying and authenticating the identity of the user attempting to access sensitive information or accounts.

Udentify is an identity-proofing and authentication solution that can help prevent social engineering attacks by verifying the identities of individuals before granting them access to sensitive information or systems. Udentify verifies identity, it collects and analyses different types of personal data. This includes biometric data, government-issued IDs, and other information. This helps to ensure that the person requesting access is who they claim to be.

Udentify also uses multi-factor authentication to provide an additional layer of security. This might include requiring users to enter a password, or a security token, or to use biometric data to access sensitive systems.

Overall, Udentify’s identity proofing and authentication solution can help prevent social engineering attacks by verifying the identities of individuals and providing multiple layers of security to protect against unauthorised access. By using Udentify, organisations can reduce the risk of social engineering attacks and keep their sensitive information and systems secure.

How to protect against social engineering attacks with aiReflex

aiReflex is an AI-based fraud detection and prevention solution that can help protect your organisation and customers from social engineering attacks. Here’s how it works:

  • AI-powered risk scoring

aiReflex uses AI-powered risk scoring to identify suspicious activities and behaviours that may indicate a social engineering attack. This might include analysing login attempts from unusual locations or devices or detecting abnormal patterns of behaviour.

  • Real-time fraud detection

aiReflex uses real-time fraud detection to identify and respond to suspicious activity in real-time. This helps to prevent social engineering attacks by detecting and stopping unauthorised access before it can cause harm.

  • Continuous monitoring

aiReflex continuously monitors user activity to identify and respond to suspicious activity in real time. This helps to prevent social engineering attacks by detecting and stopping unauthorised access before it can cause harm.

  • Intelligent rules engine

aiReflex uses an intelligent rules engine to detect and respond to social engineering attacks. This engine is designed to identify patterns of behaviour that may indicate a social engineering attack, such as multiple failed login attempts or suspicious changes to account details.

AI-based fraud detection and prevention solution aiReflex can protect your organisation and customers from social engineering attacks. It can identify and stop the suspicious activity that may lead to fraud. Overall, this solution can help protect against fraud.

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