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  • BTI Communications Group

10 Types of Social Engineering Attacks and 7 Ways to Prevent Them


Hackers are savvy criminals. No matter how well-protected your business is, they will always try to find a way to gain access to sensitive information. One way in which bad actors gain access to sensitive information is through YOU.




This practice is known as social engineering and consists of using psychological manipulation to trick users into making security mistakes or giving away sensitive information. Some of the most deceptive bad actors investigate their potential victims’ vulnerabilities, including weak entry points in security protocols. Then, attackers will try to gain the victim’s confidence in order to access to targets. Ultimately, hackers will utilize various types of social engineering attacks—and knowing their techniques will help you prepare against them.


Types Of Social Engineering Attacks


1. Phishing Scams

Phishing scams occur when scammers use any form of communication to “fish” for information. Bad actors pretend to be legitimate brands and ask you for sensitive information. Typically, their messages try to convey a sense of urgency to force unsuspected users to follow their instructions. Once the user clicks the link and enters the required information or downloads the file, scammers have access to your credentials.


● Spear Fishing:

Another kind of social engineering attack like phishing scams. The difference is that a spearfishing attack targets a specific organization or user.


● Whaling:

A phishing attack is directed at a specific, high-profile person. These attacks typically target politicians, CEOs, and celebrities.


2. Smishing and Vishing

Smishing is a social engineering attack sent via SMS text messages. Scammers purchase fake phone numbers to send malicious links via SMS.

Vishing is another type of social engineering attack similar to phishing. The difference is that vishing is performed over the phone. Bad actors will call companies and ask for information about an employee.


3. Baiting

Baiting is when a scammer tries to obtain their target’s sensitive information by promising something valuable in return. This scam can be performed digitally and physically.


● Digitally:

Hackers deploy ads that offer free music, money, movies, and so on. If you decide to click on the link, your device gets infected with malware.


● Physically:

Hackers fool employees and managers by making them believe that they found valuable information such as a USB labeled “Client Database.” Once the user inserts the device into their workstation, the full network gets infected.


4. Piggybacking / Tailgating

This type of social engineering attack is the most personal social engineering attack. Both attacks refer to when authorized personnel gives permits a stranger to access the company building or a restricted area.


Scammers may even dress up as delivery drivers, saying that they forgot their ID or that they are new to the company. Once they are inside, they steal your sensitive information.


5. Pretexting

This type of social engineering attack relies on social value and status for its operation. Pretexting is when a scammer creates a fake persona or misuses one to access sensitive data.


These “co-workers” usually reside in high company positions and use this interaction to ask for sensitive information from unsuspecting personnel inside the company.


6. Business Email Compromise (BEC)

There are 2 main types of BEC social engineering attacks:


● Impersonation:

Scammers utilize fake emails to conduct social engineering attacks. In this attack, bad actors pose as employees, vendors, or clients. Once they choose a target, they send an email asking their target to send fraudulent payments or send sensitive information.


● Account Compromise:

When hackers get access to a legitimate business account and send malicious emails company-wide.


7. Quid-Pro-Quo Scams

This social engineering attack is also known as a “favor-to-favor attack.” It occurs when scammers pretend to be an IT department or other technical service provider. They’ll usually call to offer you a free upgrade on your service, extend or offer a free trial, or give you a free card in return for trying their software.


To claim your “gifts,” hackers will provide you with a link. Once you enter your credentials, hackers will have access to your sensitive information.


8. Honeytraps

This social engineering scam consists of creating fake online dating and social media accounts using stolen photos. Once they have a target in sight, scammers will send flirty messages and quickly tell their victims they are in love with them.


Once scammers confess their love, they’ll ask the victim to prove their love to them by sending gifts, cash, cryptocurrency, or even ask for plane tickets to “meet” each other.


9. Watering Hole Attacks

This attack is when bad actors compromise a site their desired target is likely to visit instead of attacking them directly. The goal is to get your device infected through that external website.


10. Scareware

This type of social engineering attack is also known as fraudware, deception software, or rogue scanner software. This attack aims to make the target believe that they are under attack.


Scareware usually appears as pop-ups in your browser or as spam emails. Victims are requested to click a button or download a file that will eliminate malware in reality this is the way malware gets into your network.


How Can I Prevent Social Engineering Attacks? BTI Can Help

Preparation is the first defense against cybercrime. If you would like to know additional tips on how to combat social engineering, you can read our blog, “7 Ways to Prevent Social Engineering Attacks for Any Business.”


At BTI, we have more than 35 years of experience helping businesses achieve the foremost level of communications, security, and IT. Do you want to boost your operational efficiency while maintaining the highest levels of security? Contact us now and schedule a free consultation.




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