What Is The Best Countermeasure Against Social Engineering? 7 Other Strategies For Your Small Business
With the increasing challenges of penetrating computer systems using technical means, cyber attackers are finding more humane ways to cause a data breach. The best way they have come up with so far has been social engineering.
This technique is specifically and creatively designed to deceive employees and get them to share their sensitive credentials. The attacker usually has excellent social skills and coercion abilities which they use to convince their prey to divulge confidential information.
Because of its sophistication, it's getting harder and harder to protect enterprises from such attacks. In this article, we will discuss a frequently asked question in cybersecurity, “what is the best countermeasure against social engineering”?
What Does Social Engineering Mean?
Social engineering is a term used for all the techniques that are used to deceive and psychologically manipulate individuals into performing certain acts or revealing private information that can lead to a security breach.
Criminals usually use human emotions such as fear, anger, greed, curiosity, and worry to trick victims into opening a malicious link, sharing a password, or falling prey to physical tailgating attacks. Cyberattackers use psychological tricks to gain the trust of the victim which can lead to:
- Corruption of data to cause harm to the company such as reputational loss
- Stealing of sensitive data or money
- Obtaining unsolicited access to privileged areas
One such example of social engineering includes phishing attacks. Phishing is the most commonly and most successfully used technique to manipulate individuals. The fraudsters use e-mails, websites, text messages, or phone calls to persuade an individual or company to share valuable information, download malware, or take other actions that can cause a security breach.
Preventive Measures Against Social Engineering
The increasing sophistication of such attackers is becoming a prominent threat to individuals and businesses, which is why it is crucial to take the best precautions against social engineering.
Identify The Warning Signs of a Social Engineering Attack
The first step to ensuring your company and employees don't fall prey to social engineering attacks is by teaching them how to identify they could be under attack. Here are some suspicious signs that you should look out for:
- Luring victims with too-good-to-be-true offers
- Acting nervous or angry when counter-questioned
- Acting extremely eager to get the required information
- Asking for immediate assistance
- Asking to verify valuable information such as bank account details, social security number, and so on
- Overemphasizing details
- Threatening if you refuse to share required information
- Asking strange questions
Educate and Train Your Employees
You can't expect someone to protect themselves from something if they are not aware of the problem. Organizations should conduct regular training sessions for employees which should teach them the basics of social engineering tactics such as phishing, tailgating, pretexting, or baiting.
The training should also include practical training sessions where the employees are exposed to simulations involving social engineering to test their response skills and knowledge about cybersecurity attacks.
Implement Endpoint Security
Endpoint security is the process of protecting endpoints/devices such as desktops, laptops, mobile devices, and tablets from cyberattacks and malicious threats. Every remote endpoint could be an entryway for an attack and with the increasing number of endpoints, the threat is only increasing.
Examples of endpoint security include basic solutions such as malware detection software i.e. antivirus to more comprehensive solutions such as threat hunting and Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR).
Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
One of the frontlines you can use against social engineering attacks is using Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). MFA acts as an extra layer of security that protects your data even if the password has been breached.
Due to this method, users are granted access to an account only after they have successfully presented two or more verification evidence using independent categories of credentials. Examples of MFA include biometric data, SMS-based codes, smart cards, and so on.
MFA can protect users against brute-force attacks which is a practice of trial-and-error to guess login information. The risk of unauthorized access has dramatically decreased ever since companies have started implementing this security layer.
Enforce Password Management Policies
Good password management policies ensure that an attacker is not able to access your account easily. Train your employees to change their passwords regularly and practice cyber hygiene by not sharing their passwords with multiple people.
- Never use the same password for different accounts because if the hacker can get hold of one account, they will be able to penetrate other accounts as well.
- Set a unique password which is not directly related to you.
- Use multiple special characters, a mixture of upper-case and lower-case letters, and numerical digits.
Conduct Regular Security Audits
Security audits can help to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in an enterprise's systems and networks that a cyberattacker can target using social engineering skills. Conducting regular security audits can ensure that your company is constantly strengthening its defenses against cyber attacks and patching any deficiencies.
Audits also make sure that your security policies and procedures are compliant with the industry’s regulations and standards and that you are following all the compliance laws mandated by the government.
Restrict Access To Privileged Information
The more people who have access to privileged information, the harder it is to protect that particular data. Access levels should be restricted to ensure that only authorized personnel can gain entry to high-risk information.
Grant users only the necessary level of permission that they require to perform their duties and fulfill their responsibilities. Through limited access, organizations can minimize the exposure to privileged information so that unauthorized individuals don’t get a pass.
What is The Best Countermeasure Against Social Engineering?
After discussing the numerous ways you can protect your company and employees from social engineering attacks, it's imperative that you pick the best solution and prioritize it. The best countermeasure against social engineering is educating and training your employees.
Since social engineering is based on psychological manipulation more than any other technical tactic, it’s important that the targets are aware of this malignancy and are trained to avoid giving away vital information without confirmation.
Social engineering feeds on human emotions which means that it is hard to ensure protection against it. The assault is often well thought-out and can seem so genuine that the user ends up believing the attacker.
To protect your company and employees from this malicious threat, implement security controls, limit access to sensitive data, and most importantly, educate your employees today. If you are unable to make these changes yourself, hire the help of expert cybersecurity services to secure your data today.
- How can I differentiate between a genuine help or request and a malicious threat?
An attacker will most probably get nervous or angry when you counterquestion them. They will be eager to get information out of you and end the interaction as soon as possible.
- How do I know if my countermeasures against social engineering are successful?
Use penetration testing and vulnerability assessment to evaluate the security measures you have taken against social engineering.
- Can I use technical means to protect myself from social engineering?
Yes. Implementing endpoint security, multi-factor authentication, password protection, and patching are all technical ways of data protection.