How Social Engineering Could Be a Critical Threat to Organizational Security and Reputation

Discover the top 4 cyber crimes rooted in social engineering tactics. Learn how hackers exploit human psychology to carry out cyber attacks.

CIOL Bureau
New Update


While humans are the backbone of any organization, they can also be its Achilles' heel, allowing hackers to exploit even the most robust security measures. To bring their malicious intent to life, social engineering is how threat actors manipulate human emotions, such as anger, guilt, kindness, urgency, fear, and more.


The diversity of social engineering attacks, from phishing to data theft, highlights the need for heightened awareness. Understanding how cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities is the first step in building a human firewall – a collective defense against these manipulative attacks.

Top 4 Cyber Crimes Based on Social Engineering

1.    Baiting


Tapping into the emotion of curiosity, hackers leave baits, such as malicious flash drives, in highly susceptible places. This could be in the elevator or parking lot of the target organization. The bait would even seem authentic, such as labeling the malicious flash drive "Payroll Data" to pique curiosity.

Once the target takes the flash drive and plugs it into their home or organization's PC, the malware in the device gets loaded into the network, giving hackers a clear pathway into the network, which could lead to a plethora of attacks, including zero-day attacks.

2.    Trojan horse


Trojan horse, a type of phishing attack, plays on the emotion of kindness and urgency. Hackers act as legitimate individuals, such as colleagues or senior managers, by offering confidential documents or information. The email usually uses a friendly tone and seems harmless. Since it's coming from someone the target is familiar with, they click on the document link without a second thought, thinking their colleague is helping them.

Other examples of phishing include whaling that targets high-level officials, including C-suite executives, government officials, and more. Based on the publicly available information, hackers personalize their attacks to gain the attention of these individuals.

Other forms of phishing include SMS phishing, vishing (or voice phishing), URLs, and more. 


3.    Event-based attacks

Event-based attacks capitalize on fleeting opportunities and exploit the human desire for reciprocity. Hackers lure victims with enticing offers, like holiday gift cards, in exchange for seemingly harmless information. This seemingly "fair trade" quickly becomes a major security breach, as the collected data becomes the key to launching a full-blown attack. 

4.    Disaster-based attacks


In such attacks, hackers play on the emotions of sadness during catastrophic events like humanitarian or global crises such as the pandemic. Deceiving as legitimate personnel from an NGO or other government organizations, the hackers request filling out a form, requesting financial help, posing as someone in distress, letting the target' guards down, and manipulating them to share sensitive information or cause a financial loss.

How to Mitigate Social Engineering-Based Cyber Threats?

Social engineering attacks target human vulnerabilities like trust in authority figures, fear of loss, or the lure of easy gains. This manipulation can lead victims to share sensitive information unwittingly, click on malicious links, or download infected files, granting hackers access to their data or networks.


Here are a few ways in which organizations can protect themselves against such attacks:

  1. Impart social engineering-focused training and education sessions

Cybersecurity training is essential for every organization. However, imparting training focused on social engineering will enable employees to understand how these attacks are conducted and raise awareness. The training should also focus on allowing the employees to mitigate such instances by empowering them with solutions they can take.

  1. Use passwordless authentication

Traditional passwords are prone to brute force attacks or can be gained manipulatively. Even two-factor authentication that requires an OTP from the users can be hacked. However, passwordless authentication leverages unique human characteristics such as fingerprints or facial recognition. This provides an iron-clad security, strengthening the sensitive accounts.

  1. Initiate phishing tests

After completing cybersecurity training, organizations can simulate phishing attacks to gauge their effectiveness and identify areas where additional training might be needed.

Organizations can launch controlled phishing simulations after employees undergo security awareness programs to test the training's impact and pinpoint vulnerabilities.

Final words

The cyber threat landscape is evolving rapidly, fueled by sophisticated technologies like AI. As hackers employ these powerful tools to amplify their attacks, the responsibility of organizations shifts. Investing in employee cybersecurity awareness and training becomes the essential line of defense. By empowering employees to recognize and mitigate even the most advanced threats, organizations build a resilient barrier against ever-evolving cybercrime.

Authored by Shibu Paul, Vice President – International Sales at Array Networks