What is a Social Engineering Attack?

worker using computer with overlay of connection and social engineering concept

You can have the most advanced security system protecting your home, with surveillance cameras, locks, alarms, and guarded fences. But if you decide to let in someone claiming to be the maintenance guy without verifying his information, all of that protection is null and void, and you become highly susceptible to whatever risk he poses.

A social engineering attack relies on misplaced trust and human error, which is much harder to protect against than defects in your software or operating systems. The best way to defend your business and its sensitive information is by being informed and making sure your employees understand and uphold your cybersecurity protocol.

First, it will be helpful for you to understand what is a social engineering attack and what kind of activity should your team be looking for?

4 Social Engineering Techniques

Social engineering attacks are not random nor unsophisticated. In fact, they’re quite deliberate. Cybercriminals will get to know your company and its employees to sniff out vulnerable targets. And, when these targets take the bait and trust the perpetrator, they fall victim to seriously detrimental crimes like what’s listed below.


This social engineering tactic relies on victims willingly lending private or financial information for some hard-to-refuse offer (i.e., free downloads, online contests). What’s interesting (and terrifying) is that it often takes a physical form. Cybercriminals will leave an unattended USB drive in a parking lot or other shared company space with hopes that an employee will pick it up, stick it in their device, and infect it with malware.

Phishing Emails

The most commonly known form of social engineering, phishing (and its cousin – spear phishing), uses forgery and misdirection by posing as a coworker, boss, or a trusted source from another organization. They may ask you to send private details, click links to malicious websites, or open an unsafe attachment.

Here are a few ways to spot a potential phishing attack in an email:

  • Unusual sender, send date, or request
  • An incorrect or misspelled name, email address, or phone number
  • Different link-to address than what’s hyperlinked
  • The sender is coaxing you to click a link or open an attachment with a sense of urgency
  • The attachment is unexpected and unrelated to the content of the email; be especially wary if it claims to contain confidential information


Pretexting is a form of phishing or vishing (voice phishing), where a cybercriminal tricks its target by spoofing an email, phone call, or other communication. The difference here is that a high level of pretexting, or scenario-building, is created around the situation. Scammers will weave together a likely scenario to help them garner personal data, login credentials, account information, and more.

Let’s look at a common example of how this scam manifests. A company uses an automatic payment system for one of its service providers. It’s plausible that a recurring bill may fail and that the service provider would reach out to collect their payment. An employee may share credit card or bank account information to rectify the problem.


Have you ever had a pop-up security alert proclaiming that your computer system was infected? And, to fix the problem, you needed to download antivirus software? That was most likely scareware.

Scareware can be relatively harmless, meaning it may not harm your device, but it won’t offer the cybersecurity protection it proclaims to have. A more likely and worse scenario is that it’s fake malware, with malicious code waiting to infect your computer.

Antivirus pop-ups trick users into acting quickly by warning them of a data breach. The thing is, no legitimate cybersecurity software company will use tactics like this to get you to use their product. So, if you get an alert like this, don’t panic and give in to their threats.

It is so important to invest in security awareness training within your organization, or you may become the next target. Cybersecurity truly requires a holistic approach, and for that, you should turn to Warwick Communications. Digital security threats are evolving, but we have the programs and processes to protect your Ohio business from cyberattacks.

Contact us today to secure your company’s private data.