In the complex world of cybersecurity, where bad actors constantly develop new ways to penetrate and corrupt systems, social engineering assaults continue to be a continuously sophisticated and effective danger.

These cunning strategies use psychological tricks to trick people into disclosing private information, opening malicious links, or inadvertently carrying out activities that compromise security because 98% of cyberattacks rely on social engineering. Therefore, organisations need to be more vigilant and aware of social engineering tactics to safeguard their organisation against cyber crimes.

This in-depth article will walk you through social engineering assaults, examine the tactics used by attackers, and provide you with the information and resources you need to not only see warning signs but also take effective precautions against these sneaky dangers. 

Understanding social engineering

Social engineering is a cunning manipulation approach that uses human weaknesses to get restricted systems, valuables, or personal information. Cybercriminals frequently use "human hacking" schemes to trick gullible people into sending confidential information, spreading malware, or allowing unauthorised access. 

These assaults take place on a variety of media, including the internet, in person, and through other encounters. 

The goal of social engineering is to take advantage of people's thoughts and behaviours. By understanding the reasons behind a person's behaviour, attackers can successfully trick and control them. 

Hackers also take advantage of people's ignorance about new hazards, including drive-by downloads, and frequently undervalue the importance of personal information, like phone numbers. The best lines of defence against these dishonest strategies are knowledge and vigilance.

Types of social engineering attacks

Phishing attacks

Phishing attacks are perhaps the most common form of social engineering. They involve sending deceptive emails that appear to be from legitimate sources, like banks, social media platforms, or reputable organisations. The goal is to trick the recipient into revealing sensitive information, such as login credentials, bank accounts, credit card numbers or personal identification.

How to find out about phishing attacks:

  • Check for discrepancies in email addresses, domain names, or subtle variations in the sender's name.
  • Look for urgent or suspicious content in the email, such as requests for immediate action, typos, or poor grammar.
  • Hover over links to reveal the actual URL before clicking.


Pretexting attacks involve impersonating someone trustworthy to extract personal information. Attackers might pose as colleagues, IT support persons or even government officials. They weave intricate scenarios to gain your trust and access to confidential data.

How to find out about pretexting:

  • Always verify the identity of individuals requesting personal or sensitive information.
  • Be cautious about sharing any information unless you know the person's identity on the other end.


Baiting attacks tempt users with attractive downloads, such as free software, music, or videos. These downloads, however, are typically loaded with malware.

How to find out about baiting:

  • Avoid downloading documents files or clicking on links from untrusted sources.
  • Install reputable antivirus software to scan files before opening them.


Tailgating, or piggybacking, is a physical form of social engineering. It occurs when an unauthorised individual gains access to a secure area by following an authorised person. It often happens in office environments or data centres.

How to find out about tailgating:

  • Always question unfamiliar individuals attempting to gain physical access to your workplace or data centres.
  • Encourage access control systems and identity verification for physical security.

Techniques employed by attackers

Cybercriminals are smart social engineers who employ a range of psychological techniques to manipulate their targets:

  • Trust: Attackers often impersonate trusted entities, such as coworkers, friends, or reputable organisations, to gain your trust.
  • Curiosity: Emails or messages containing enticing links or offers pique your curiosity, leading you to click on malicious content.
  • Fear: Threats or urgency are common tactics, creating a sense of panic to make you act impulsively.

To counter these tactics, you must become adept at recognising red flags and employing protective measures.

Ways to protect against social engineering attacks

Now that you're well-versed in recognising the various forms of social engineering attacks and their red flags, it's time to explore how to protect yourself and your organisation effectively. Here are some proactive steps to take:

  • Education and awareness: Regularly conduct cybersecurity training for employees. Create awareness about the various forms of social engineering attacks through real-life examples and scenarios. Ensure that every organisation member knows how to respond to potential threats.
  • Verify identities: Always verify the identity of individuals requesting sensitive information or access. Don't be afraid to question the legitimacy of the request. Legitimate organisations won't mind if you hang up and call them back through official channels.
  • Implement two-factor authentication (2FA): 2FA adds an extra layer of system security by requiring users to provide a second form of verification, such as a one-time code (OTP) sent to their mobile device or email IDs, in addition to their password. Even if an attacker has your password, they won't be able to access your account without this additional code.
  • Use strong passwords: Encourage the use of strong, unique and long passwords for all accounts. Password managers can help generate and store complex passwords securely. Remember to change passwords regularly, and never use the same password for multiple accounts.
  • Email security: Implement email filtering and anti-phishing solutions to reduce the chances of malicious emails reaching your inbox. These tools can identify and block phishing attempts and other suspicious emails.
  • Regular updates and patching: Keep all software, applications, and systems up to date. Attackers or hackers often exploit vulnerabilities in outdated software, so regular updates and patches are crucial to maintaining a secure digital environment.
  • Incident response plan: Develop a robust incident response plan for IT security that outlines and defines how your organisation will react during a successful social engineering attack. This plan should cover containment, eradication, and recovery procedures to minimise damage.


In the ongoing battle against social engineering attacks, knowledge is the most potent weapon in your arsenal. Understanding the psychology of social engineering, recognising red flags, and implementing effective defence strategies can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to these insidious threats.

In the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape, where malicious actors constantly refine their tactics, vigilance and scepticism are your greatest allies. Stay informed, stay proactive, and above all, stay secure. 

Always remember that in cybersecurity, the best defence is an informed and alert one. Be safe, and be secure.

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