4 Common Types Of Social Engineering Attacks

In the context of information security, social engineering covers an extensive list of malicious activities executed through human interrelations.

It uses psychology manipulations of innocent computer users. Instead of using technical hacking methods, it lures users into making security blunders. The purpose is to get users to disclose sensitive information, gain access to networks, etc.

Social Engineering Security Attacks

Social engineering is the most effective method of breaching used by cyber attackers to access security algorithms. Despite the distance barrier, advancement in internet connectivity has granted people the power of interacting with all sorts of people.

Over the years, there has been great improvements in communication systems. Nevertheless, people still have been exposed to vulnerabilities and unknowingly reveal their privacy to the wrong people.

For instance, an attacker might call a staff member purporting to be the chief IT support official. He lures them into disclosing their password. Social engineering is dangerous because it depends upon human mistakes instead of software vulnerabilities.

The errors that legitimate computer users make are difficult to predict. This makes it even harder to recognize when you’re about to make an error compared to malware-based infiltrations.

How Do Security Attacks Happen?

Social engineering is considered a criminal activity that occurs in a series of events.

Firstly, the attacker probes their person of interest to perform background research. He gathers information like critical entry points, vulnerable security algorithms necessary to continue with their mission.

Oftentimes, attackers will take a couple of weeks or months before coming to your place or placing a call. They prepare well to find your organization’s phone list to research which staff has social accounts such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

Secondly, the criminal claims to be a “good person”, a fellow employee or the manager. This is to gain the trust of their prey and offer stimuli for consequent activities that breach the security measures. Or disclosing personal information, or providing entry to sensitive resources.

Attacks affiliated with social engineering show up in various forms and can occur any where people are interacting.

Types of Social Engineering

The four most common social engineering types are: baiting, scareware, pretexting, and phishing.


The baiting form of social engineering involves the use of false promise to excite the curiosity of the victim.

An attacker lures users into their trap to fetch crucial information or infiltrate into their system using viruses. One best-known form of baiting is the use of physical media such as flash disks to dispense viruses.

For instance, a criminal can leave an ordinary looking USB drive in a conspicuous places such as washrooms, elevations, etc. It can be disguised with a nice label of your company or cute photo of a branded pet. The goal is to have the unsuspecting staff person retrieve this infected drive.

When a curious person inserts it into their laptops or work computer, the malware is automatically installed into their computers.

In addition to physical media, baiting scams are also found on the internet. While browsing, victims can be enticed to click on malware-infected ads.

 QUICK TIP:  If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You can quickly Google the topic to verify whether you’re dealing with a legitimate offer or a scam.


Also known as deception software. Scareware is a fraudulent technique that deceives computer users to believe that they should download something. This can be particular software and of course it’s useless or malicious.

Scareware is a situation where people are bombarded with forceful and fabricated threats. It is a situation where a computer user is swindled into believing that their networks are infected with viruses.

The commonest example of scareware is a “your computer may be infected with a harmful spyware program” browser popup. The scareware would either offer to install the “fix” for you or lead you to a virus infected website. Either way, if you respond, your computer will get infected with the malware.

Also, attackers can spread scareware or deception software to vulnerable people using spam emails.

Albeit, scareware ads are fake and opening them is dangerous, they should not be completely ignored. When they appear, it implies that your computer might be infected with a virus. Therefore, a third party solution should be sought. You can use reputable computer technicians such as Best Buy’s Geek Squad or your another trusted source. Either way, all signs of malware should be removed from your computer.

 QUICK TIP:  Use verified and updated antivirus software. Avoid clicking suspicious ads that pop up on your browser when surfing on the web.


Pretexting social engineering involves the use of elaborate lies and an invented story to obtain information from a targeted victim. A pretexter is clever in engaging a victim to disclose information asked for.

Using pretexting, a criminal begins by building trust between himself and his victim. They have no shame in impersonating police officers, bank officials, or any person in authority. They will ask the victim various types of questions that are aimed at collecting information about the victim’s identity.

In essence, a pretexter is an identify thief. The types of information pretexts gather are credit cards numbers, social security numbers, financial records, etc. They also collect information on the victim’s private addresses as well as security data regarding a physical business.

And it’s not just the average computer user or consumer that gets duped. Attackers can fool business owners into disclosing information about their customers. Or impersonate private investors in order to acquire mobile phone numbers, bank details and other sensitive data.

Also, the pretexter will use authoritative voice with an earnest tone to appear more believable to their victims.

 QUICK TIP:  Reduce the risk of insider threat incidents by filtering company emails with detection, protection, and monitoring tools.


Phishing, social engineering security attacks that use emails to get personal information such as financial details, credit card numbers, et al.

Criminals send email messages that appear to have come from reputable organizations. If it’s a bank scam, the attacker requests account details, usually suggesting that your account has a problem. Obviously, if you respond to per their request, the attacker gains access to your bank account.

In other cases, the criminals may compromising links that once clicked, your computer or the entire network blows up.

In recent years, phishing attacks are leveraged by rival companies to bypass system perimeters of their competitors.

For instance, a person that uses an online service may receive an email notifying them of a potential policy violation. The instructions in the email requests immediate correction like password modification is needed.

It may involve a link to a malicious website that resembles the site that you use. After the modification, the information is submitted to the hackers and it may be used to commit fraudulent activities.

 QUICK TIP:  To protect yourself from phishing criminals, don’t submit personal information unless you’re certain about the legitimacy of the senders.

Wrapping It Up

Criminals who perpetrate social engineering attacks trick vulnerable people into trapping them. Therefore, whenever you feel suspicious or threatened by an email, text, ad, or unrecognized media, be wary about them. Staying vigilante and aware protects people against different forms of social engineering attacks that occur in the technology industry.

You may also enjoy reading: How The Black Swan Event is Affecting eCommerce In 2020

About the Author

Darrel Carpenter

Darrel is the Director of DevOps at Envisager Studio. He has 10 years of education, more than 20 years of engineering experience, and 3 decades of tireless tinkering. He’s responsible for all the infrastructure that powers our client’s websites, emails and more. He is a member of the Mensa Society. In his spare time, Darrel writes about servers, content management systems, cloud computing, web hosting, and more.

4 Common Types Of Social Engineering Attacks

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