Social engineering is a type of cyber attack just like any other that aims to gain access to a computer, a network, or a person’s data. However, the difference between a standard cyber attack and a social engineering attack is the lengthy research, planning and manipulation of the human psychology required to fulfil the attack.
The term ‘social engineering’ was popularised by a man called Kevin Mitnick, who was arrested back in 1995 by the FBI for multiple hacking crimes. Although Mitnick is now a reformed Computer Security Consultant in America, his techniques live on.
All social engineering attacks revolve around the same play on emotions (usually fear or curiosity) as the criminal exploits people’s weaknesses so that they become vulnerable. This could involve clicking a link, scanning a QR code or sharing sensitive details with a ‘family member’ or a ‘colleague’. Once this action is performed, the attacker can then gain access to sensitive data or systems to carry out an attack.
A criminal can use many techniques to carry out a successful social engineering attack. Most of the time, this process starts by performing background research on their victim. This could involve finding out a person’s interests and hobbies or even where they work, who they work with and what role they perform. Through publicly available open-source intelligence (OSINT) tools, attackers can extract personal data such as email/phone numbers, date of birth and addresses to better inform their tactics. In extreme cases, these attacks take place over several years as a deceitful role of perceived ‘trust’ is formed before being violated; this can also extend to physical contact for valuable information extraction.
People with more senior roles in a company often pose a greater risk as their high company access and file permissions make them the perfect target. However, irrespective of your position, it is critical to remember that anyone can fall victim with financial administration, HR and company secretary jobs also at an extreme risk of attack due to the confidential nature of the roles.
In general, social engineering attacks tend to follow the same simple structure:
Investigation: During the investigation stage of a social engineering attack, the cyber criminal’s first job is to gather as much background information as they can on the soon-to-be victim.
Here, the attacker works to identify as much about the victim’s background, weaknesses, their online behaviour, lingo, social groups, company and colleagues as possible.
Design: Step two of the attack involves the time a criminal will spend devising the ideal attack for their victim. If they have discovered basic information about your daily life such as your company, job role, manager and other data through OSINT, this can help them set up a very realistic attack scenario.
Attack: The attack commences. Playing on the victim’s emotions, the attacker may send an ‘urgent’ email from a ‘colleague’ expressing a time-urgent need for the victim download files or send data.
If the attack is successful, the criminal will build a rapport with the victim as they simultaneously gain unauthorised access.
Once complete, the attacker will either withdraw from the correspondence and cover their footprint or linger on the network for another victim.
In more sophisticated instances where an attacker is experienced enough to hide their digital footprint, such as attacks on high-value targets, social engineering can be carried out covertly. As a result, this gives the criminal free-range to exploit the most vulnerable of assets through theft or damage.
With advancing technology, there are various types of social engineering methodologies that a can criminal use to gain unlawful and unethical access to an individual or company’s information.
In our next article on this topic, we will be delving into the most common social engineering attack methodology, phishing.
For more insights like this, subscribe to our new monthly cyber threat report below.
Stay updated with the latest cyber security insights and company updates.
Kurt Schrauwen is a Director of the Riela Group of companies which includes Riela Yachts, Riela Cyber and Riela Tech.
Kurt brings more than 20 years of leadership experience having been an early part of the global success of Microgaming in becoming a market leader. Kurt was responsible for the commercial, contractual, and technical sales for Microgaming and with this experience will complement the company’s growth strategy.
Kurt is passionate about business optimisation and prides himself in having an intrapreneurial outlook to maximise staff potential, reduce inefficiencies as well as identifying and maturing revenue growth opportunities.
Paul Cocker joined the Riela Group in late 2021, after spending just under 20 years with his previous employer.
Paul is responsible for the Riela Tech service levels, working on both the dispatch function and SLA management. Paul carries out a variety of duties across the Network Operations Centre and works closely across the wider team to deliver professionally tailored solutions for our Riela Tech clients.
Something isn’t Clear?
Feel free to contact us, and we will be more than happy to answer all of your questions.
Murat Guner joined the Riela Group in the Summer of 2021 as an Infrastructure Engineer.
Murat began his career in Turkey as a computer teacher for primary and secondary schools before migrating his skills into IT infrastructure. After honing his IT experiences throughout a colourful career path, Murat gained numerous qualifications which he is now excited to apply to the management of our Riela Tech infrastructure.
Andy is a qualified Network Engineer with in-depth knowledge of architecting, implementing and supporting networking solutions in the SMB, Enterprise and Service Provider environments.
He has over 20 years of experience working across multiple vendor operating systems, including Cisco, Juniper, Linux and Microsoft, and has also been responsible for implementing a variety of large scale network services deployments, taking projects from design to rollout and support.
Andy also has experience of deploying and migrating a range of virtualisation technologies including VMWare, Hyper-V and KVM based systems.
Marc is our Group’s Infrastructure and Managed Services lead with over 18 years’ experience in delivering infrastructure projects across multiple industry verticals and international jurisdictions. From projects in Aerospace and Engineering through to Banking and Insurance, from Europe, China, Africa and Australia.
This experience is matched with a varied list of certifications from leading industry vendors such as Hp, Cisco, Microsoft, Ruckus, CompTIA and more. As a qualified technical trainer Marc is comfortably able to take complicated technical concepts and deliver them in simplistic terms to key decision makers and end users alike.
Most of Marc’s experience has been gained working for managed service providers, both large and niche and as such is able to take real world experience and blend it with industry standards to help align our service delivery with our clients values and processes.
As a Marketing Executive, Alex is responsible for all marketing duties spanning the Riela Group.
Alex joined the Riela Group in August 2020, shortly after graduating with a Psychology degree from Nottingham Trent University.
With past work experience in content marketing, event management and web design, Alex is able to apply her creative and analytical skills into the Riela strategy.
As the Head of Group Sales at the Riela family of companies, Matthew leads the company’s sales strategy, execution, and growth.
Matthew has a successful record building trusted client relationship and delivering upon set expectations. An accomplished sales leader, he delivers a sales process that provides clients with the information and support they need to make the right decisions for their organisations and their constituents.
Matthew has significant experience within the maritime industry having previously worked across various sectors including insurance, security, satellite communications and managed IT. Matthew’s most recent experience encompasses almost 5 years spent with the leading satellite communications and managed IT provider in the maritime industry, focusing on their superyacht clientele.
Christian is involved across the Riela family of companies with particular attention to the technology businesses, Cyber and Tech.
Christian gained a postgraduate Master in Finance degree at the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland and completed his MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Before joining us, Christian worked for six years at Argosy Capital, an Isle of Man-based private equity and venture capital business focusing on early-stage growth businesses. At Argosy, he focused on managing investment companies, research and financial analysis and served as a director on several boards.
Robert Tobin is the Managing Director of the Riela Group of Companies and is responsible in overseeing our business operations, our people and driving excellence in all we do.
Rob brings over 25 years’ of successful leadership and entrepreneurial experience across a range of industries including Family Office, corporate services, construction engineering, Superyachts, cyber security and information technology development to our Group, and to our customers.
In the past 15 years Rob has gained a prominent reputation within the Superyacht industry for his passion, integrity, innovation and achievements to date.
“Being part of an awesome, capable and forward thinking team that have a shared passion for Superyachts, people and the environment is the highlight of my career and puts a smile on my face and a spring in my step everyday”.
Peter is an experienced technology consultant with a demonstrated history of working in the IT and cyber security industry. Skilled in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), IT Strategy, Start-ups, Regulations, and Online Gaming. Strong consulting professional with a DPhil focused in Natural Sciences from ChristChurch, Oxford.
Tim Bliss, Managing Director of Riela Tech since the company foundation in 2015 and Director of Riela Cyber, brings over 20 years’ of successful leadership experience across a range of industries including finance and banking, software development, and manufacturing, as well as cyber security and information technology. Prior to forming the company he led the technology for Manx Financial Group PLC, where he was instrumental in business systems transformation.
“It is our hugely capable team of experts that drives our business – it is fantastic and rewarding to be able to use technology, intelligence, and great customer service to help make our clients’ business and staff progressively more efficient resilient and secure”