Social engineering

Social engineering and the role it plays in cybersecurity

Reading Time: 6 minutes

It is crucial to know what and who to trust when it comes to cybersecurity. But, did you know that even this can be exploited? Social engineering techniques take advantage of the victim’s emotional reactions and other natural tendencies.

Any cybersecurity expert will tell you that the human who accept things at face value is the weakest link in the security chain. Regardless of how sophisticated and advanced your security solutions are if you trust the wrong person with the right information, you are susceptible to whatever risk they pose. Although this type of cyberattack is commonly used to exploit people, it is also used to test one’s defense. To learn the basics of social engineering and how to use it as an ethical hacker or penetration tester, sign up for EC-Council’s Certified Ethical hacker course!

What is social engineering?

Social engineering is a technique applied to manipulate people into releasing sensitive and confidential information. This term encompasses all malicious practices executed through human interactions. The main idea behind this concept is to influence the target victim into taking actions that may not be in their best interest.

The most dangerous element of social engineering is that it deals with human vulnerabilities rather than system failure or network vulnerabilities. Nevertheless, social engineering is different from other ‘scams’ because it is usually one of many steps in a more complex scam strategy.

Why is social engineering important?

You must learn about social engineering attacks to avoid making it easier for social engineers to trick you into divulging your login credentials than to try and hack into your account. Unless, of course, you have a very weak and predictable password.

Once they trick you into divulging your email password, they can easily access your contact list and other significant accounts. The reason is that most people naturally use a single password for everything, so they don’t forget.

The problem is not that you don’t have a strong security solution. The problem is that you sometimes trust people you shouldn’t, and you give them the tool they can use to harm you. Imagine living in a house with alarm systems, CCTVs, guard dogs, or deadbolts, but you open the door to a criminal who can attack you just because you believed the guy who told you he was a delivery guy.

Certified Ethical Hackers (CEH) are trained personnel who are deft at detecting and mitigating social engineering schemes. For more information on the CEH program, Click Here!

Five important facts about social engineering

  • Social engineering schemes vary from one social engineer to the next.
  • There is no immediate sign that you are being scammed or have been compromised.
  • Social engineering is an ancient scam that spans across different industries. It is both physical and digital, so it would be wrong to think it only happens in the cyberspace.
  • Although no one is exempted from a social engineering attack, most malicious actors target enterprises and other SMEs.
  • Countries are also using social engineering schemes or using them in part as a scheme from a much more complex advanced persistent threat (APT) attacks.

Types of social engineering attacks

What is an example of social engineering?

It is your responsibility to ensure that all your employees are aware of the types of social engineering. Even though several anti-phishing solutions can help you mitigate social engineering attacks, having a security-aware employee base will always be the best technique for preventing the common social engineering attacks.

The following are the types of social engineering with examples:


This is a popular scheme used by cyber-attackers to gain access to critical information, such as login credentials or bank information, to grab information that the target would not willingly give away. Even with its widespread occurrence, several people still fall victim to this scheme.

For example, a cybercriminal pretends to be a credible source through interactions meant to ‘con’ the target into opening text messages or emails. The phisher’s ultimate goal is to lure the victim into divulging their personal information. Phishing emails can be identified by the underlying tone of urgency. You often see something like “offer lasts for one day only” or “available for only for the first 20 respondents.”


Vishing is like phishing, the objective is the same, except a voice is applied here. For example, the ‘Visher’ uses urgent voice calls, voice mails, or voice notes to convince the target into believing that they must act swiftly’ to defend themselves against a sack, an arrest, or other risks.


This type of social engineering tactic involves the target victim falling for the ‘bait.’ The social engineer is aware that humans are naturally swayed when you dangle a seemingly irresistible offer, so they exploit this.

For example, a malicious actor might intentionally place a USB stick labelled as “Confidential” in a location where the victim can notice it. However, unknowing to the target the stick is infected with malware. The target may then take the ‘bait’ and connect it to a computer system out of curiosity. Immediately this activity is performed, the malware will be injected into the computer.


In this scheme, the cyber-criminal retrieves sensitive information through successions of shrewdly crafted lies. The rip-off is usually introduced by an attacker pretending to be in need of the user’s delicate information so they can carry out a significant task.

For example, the attacker can send the victim an email that nominates them as the beneficiary of a will. However, the victim is deceived into believing that they need to disclose their personal information to speed up the inheritance process.

Quid Pro Quo

This attack takes place when malicious hackers ask for personal information from their target in return for compensation or something they desire. It’s often an “if you give me this, I’ll give you that” kind of exchange.

The deal often seems too good to be true and it usually is because the attacker is often the one who benefits the most from such an exchange. For example, the malicious hacker can ask their victim for their login details in exchange for a freebie.

What is social engineering as relates to cybersecurity?

In the field of cybersecurity or information security, social engineering serves as a non-technical strategy used by cyber-attackers, usually involving psychological manipulation. This heavily depends on human dealings and connections to deceive people into flouting best security practices.

The life-cycle of social engineering basically involves four steps. First, the fraudster obtains information about the victim’s personal life and interest through keen observation or hunting. The next step is to interact with the victim without them suspecting the imminent attack.

Afterward, following an extended period of interacting with the target, the attacker obtains relevant information from the unsuspecting victim through social engineering tactics. Lastly, the attacker tries to shut down the interactions without raising any suspicion. Through this strategy, the motive of the malicious hacker is achieved, and the victim may likely never notice this link.

To learn more about social engineering in cybersecurity, you need to learn to hack. Join our Certified Ethical Hacker program today to mitigate social engineering scams.

Tips to prevent social engineering

With social engineering scams being on the increase, organizations need to learn about current hacking techniques and conduct vulnerability analysis always to be a step ahead. It is no secret that social engineering attacks are speedily weakening the cybersecurity chain and today’s network based on the progression of digital communication technology.

The following are ways to prevent falling victim to social engineering scams.

  • Regular security awareness training for all employees
  • Do not fall victim to the phishing, vishing, and smishing bait
  • If you don’t know the sender, do not reply to the text or mail
  • Do not be too trusting. Always verify the source and if you’re not sure, it’s probably a scam.
  • Install an antivirus software
  • Constantly update your antivirus software
  • Do not be too hasty to divulge information about your password, financial details, or login credentials.
  • Most legitimate organizations will never ask you for help. So, be suspicious of request for help and offers that are too good to be true
  • Do not download anything you are not sure of
  • Beware of foreign offers, request to transfer money from a foreign account in exchange for a cut, or money from unknown relatives.

Why become a Certified Ethical Hacker?

EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) program is the most comprehensive ethical hacking course on the globe that helps information security professionals grasp the fundamentals of ethical hacking. The C|EH credential certifies persons in the exact network security discipline of Ethical Hacking from a vendor-neutral viewpoint.

The CEH is the certification a person obtains after demonstrating that they have the knowledge to analyses the security of computer systems through vulnerability analysis and penetration testing. This ethical hacking full course helps you assess the security posture of an organization by identifying vulnerabilities in the network and system infrastructure to determine if unauthorized access is possible. Visit our course page for more details.

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