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Blog Home > What you need to know about Social Engineering
What you need to know about Social Engineering

What is a social engineering?

Social engineering uses human interaction (social skills) to obtain or compromise information about an individual, organization, or computer systems. An attacker may seem unassuming and respectable, possibly claiming to be from a financial institution, credit card company, researcher, or some other legitimate business. They will attempt to exploit your willingness to help or correct some type of billing issue to gather enough information to gain access to online accounts or a company’s internal network.


What is a phishing attack?

Phishing is a form of social engineering. Phishing attacks use email or malicious websites to solicit personal information by posing as a trustworthy organization. For example, an attacker may send email seemingly from a reputable credit card company or financial institution that requests account information, often suggesting that there is a problem. When users respond with the requested information, attackers can use it to gain access to the accounts.

Phishing attacks may also appear to come from other types of organizations, such as charities. Attackers often take advantage of current events and certain times of the year, such as

  • natural disasters (e.g., Hurricane Katrina, Indonesian tsunami)

  • epidemics and health scares (e.g., H1N1)

  • economic concerns (e.g., IRS scams)

  • major political elections

  • holidays


    How do you avoid being a victim?

  • Slow down! The sheer volume of emails and texts may cause you to click on a link or respond without thinking. Your desire to be helpful may cause you to fall prey on the phone. Stop and think before you act.

  • Don’t click on links or attachments from senders you don’t recognize or were not expecting. If an email or text from someone you know seems suspicious, call the sender to confirm. To visit a company’s website, type the URL directly into your browser’s address bar.

  • Don’t respond to commands or requests for personal information. Reputable firms won’t make threats or ask you to confirm a PIN or account number.

  • Install and maintain anti-virus software, firewalls, and email filters to reduce some of this traffic.

  • Take advantage of any anti-phishing features offered by your email client and web browser.


    What to do if you think you are a victim?

  • If you believe your financial accounts may be compromised, contact your financial institution immediately and close any accounts that may have been compromised. Watch for any unexplainable charges to your account.

  • Immediately change any passwords you might have revealed. If you used the same password for multiple resources, make sure to change it for each account, and do not use that password in the future.


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