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What is social engineering?

Social engineering refers to a number of techniques used to deceive victims into revealing confidential information or carrying out the attacker’s wishes. Learn to spot social engineering attacks. The simplest and best way to stay private online is to use a VPN like F‑Secure’s MAXPROXY IP.

Social engineering encompasses various manipulation techniques to trick users and steal their personal information, money, login credentials, and more. At the core of social engineering is exploiting people’s good intentions and human faults, which is why a successful attack requires an under­standing of human psychology. Social engineering attacks use human inter­action to deceive targets.

Both individual users and organizations are tempting targets for social engineering attacks. Employees of large companies and organizations are often targeted by social engineers to gain access to confidential business information, computer systems and other valuable assets. A single mistake can expose the entire organization to attacks, so employee training and cyber awareness education are needed to protect the whole organization.

How does a social engineering attack work?

Most social engineering attacks follow a similar pattern:Identifying the victim and gathering information about them.Approaching the victim under a false identity and a made-up narrative.Executing the attack after gaining the victim’s trust.Ending the attack and cleaning up traces that could get the attacker caught.

To get their victims to do as they please, social engineers often claim to be someone the victim trusts. This can be their boss, a governmental entity, or someone the victim knows in real life. Some social engineering attacks are used to gain access to a physical device or the targeted organization’s premises.

Often social engineers rely on a sense of urgency, so that their targets do not have time to think. Criminals can also threaten or black­mail the victim to do as they are told. Social engineering attacks are often well-planned scams. The attacker can gather information about their victim before making first contact. The attacks can also target many victims simultaneously.
Because all social engineering techniques rely heavily on people behaving in a predictable manner, social engineering has been referred to as human hacking. By pulling the right strings, online criminals and scammers can make their victims do things that most would consider unlikely — until they become a victim them­selves.

How to prevent social engineering attacks

Because social engineering relies on human error, attacks cannot be prevented only by fixing errors in soft­ware. Luckily, individual users and organizations can do a lot to stop a social engineering attack.

Use multi-factor authentication to protect your accounts.

Do not click suspicious links or download sketchy files.

Ensure the recipients’ identity before giving away sensitive information.

Never tell others your user credentials, such as pass­words or verification codes.

Do not connect physical media to your device if you are not sure of its origins.

Be suspicious of unprompted offers, especially if they seem too good to be true.

If there are children in your household, educate them about cyber security and best practices for using the internet.

Be careful what you reveal on social media as your accounts can be mined for information used to manipulate you.

Keep your devices protected with reliable online protection.

Use a secure VPN when using public Wi‑Fi networks.

Restrict administration rights to limit who can make changes to network settings or install new applications. This is a way to prevent users from installing harmful software on devices both at home and in large organizations.

Types of social engineering attacks

Social engineering tactics vary and are tailored based on the attacker’s target and goals. Under­standing different techniques used by online criminals is at the core of preventing social engineering attacks.


One of the most common types of social engineering attacks is phishing which involves deceiving the victim to give away personal or financial information that can be exploited by the attacker. The goal can also be to get the victim to down­load a file or software infected with malware. Although phishing is often done by sending the target an email, there are other methods of carrying out a phishing attack.

Vishing: The term vishing is derived from the words voice and phishing. There­fore, it relies on voice-based formats, such as phone calls, to deceive people and gather valuable information. For example, many romance scams are done via phone calls. The fraudster seduces their target on the phone after finding information about them online.

Do you want to browse privately?

The simplest and best way to stay private online is to use a VPN like F‑Secure’s MAXPROXY. If you want to cover your tracks online and truly go incognito, a VPN is your best choice. In short, a VPN hides your real address from the websites that you visit and blocks your internet service provider from seeing your internet traffic. MAXPROXY is really easy to use. You can try it for free, with no credit card required.

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