One of the most effective cyber attacks is known as social engineering. This type of attack is so powerful because it relies on the element of human interaction, which is something you don’t always experience with cyber attacks. In almost all other forms of cybersecurity breaches, the people involved in the attack are well hidden behind the scenes.
When it comes to social engineering, it’s quite a different situation but a highly successful one for the hackers.
In this article, we want to help you understand social engineering and how you can protect yourself and your clients from it.
What is Social Engineering?
Social engineering is when someone tricks you into giving personal information away or taking some sort of action.
One popular example involves Waterloo Brewing. This company lost $2.1 million when someone called them impersonating a creditor. They state that it was hard to determine whether this was real or not merely because there was a real human interaction involved in the scheme.
This is only one example, and there are many more like it. Here are some ways that people will use social engineering to cause harm to your business or practice.
Email is the worst place to send private information because it doesn’t contain any encryption or security measures to protect you.
Many times, criminals will use an email account to trick you into thinking there is some form of important information in the email.
For example, hackers may determine that your accounting firm does work with another firm working under the name Mitchell Accounting. They’ll find the email of someone working at that firm and change the handle, only slightly.
So, you’ll receive an email from MiikeJones@MitchellAccounting.com instead of MikeJones@MitchellAccounting.com. When you’re busy handling your day to day tasks, you can understand how it would be difficult to pick up on such a small detail.
The email may ask you to send over some form of personal information, but instead of sending it to the right person, you’re sending it to a malicious attacker.
In some instances, you may even encounter a criminal in person who is deploying a social engineering tactic on you. They may swap out a USB drive and label it the same as the previous one. Instead, this USB drive contains malware that infects your computer when you reinsert it.
Another popular example of baiting is receiving a phone call from someone who claims to be your bank, financial advisor, creditors, IRS, etc. You might feel anxious when receiving these calls and forfeit sensitive information because they threatened legal action otherwise.
Be sure to make yourself and everyone in your office aware of these tactics.
How to Protect Yourself From a Social Engineering Attack
Now that you understand social engineering and how it’s so easy to fall victim to an attack, let’s talk about what you can do to protect yourself.
Proper training - Ensuring that all employees and members of staff understand social engineering is the first and most crucial step to protecting yourself against an attack. Since most social engineering happens due to trickery, knowing the red flags and warning signs is the ultimate way to prevent it.
Data encryption - If malware makes its way into your network, you’ll want to make sure that all sensitive information is safe. Think of this as your second level of security. The first level is yourself and all staff members; the second level is your data encryption.
Secure communication - Every word in an email and every sentence on a phone call needs some form of tracking and tracing back. Everyone in your office should be held accountable for the actions they take, even if they were unaware that they were opening the doors to a cyber attack. Do not share personal client or company information through email and never open any unsolicited attachments either.
Secure data storage - It’s important to store all your company and client data in a safe place. More and more accounting and law firms are moving away from in-house servers to cloud-based solutions.
How Zebu Can Help
We want you to know that our 3-in-1 cloud-based collaboration tool can help protect you against social engineering.
With Zebu, you get a messenger, file storage, and calendar all in one. This means you can send messages throughout the organization safely and securely. All messages are protected by military-grade encryption, so no one will be able to crack it even if they access your system.
The cloud-based file storage makes it easy to share information with other members of staff without having to worry about malicious attacks.
You must understand and take social engineering seriously. Zebu will protect your small business's reputation and help keep your information safe.