Social Engineering: The Subtlety of Hacking

hackingFifteen years ago saw the birth of the I LOVE YOU virus, then considered the biggest malware event at the time. Originating from the Philippines, the virus affected millions of people worldwide. It worked by copying itself many times and overwriting files in the hard drive. It would then send itself to the people in the mailing list of the victim. People were easily victimized, as emails came from people they knew, and the message bore the enticing heading I LOVE YOU.

Experts even attributed the success of the virus to its appeal to the human desires and emotions: the need to be loved. At the time, it was considered a perfect example of how social engineering can be harnessed to wreak havoc online.

Understanding Social Engineering

Tech experts and criminal defense attorneys specializing in Internet law define social engineering as a method of hackers to manipulate the unwitting to divulge confidential information. The method does not need any complementary technicality; all it needs to be successful is a persuasive statement that will gain the trust of the victim.

Common social engineering exploits use email and social media. If a hacker manages to crack a person’s password, they gain access to that person’s network. They may solicit or extort money from the victim’s friends and family.

Some hackers use phishing, where they send victims with a malware under the guise of an-email. Baiting, on the other hand, is a method where hackers place malware in a flash drive or hard drive. The file may pique the interest of the victim, which may lead them to open and unintentionally install it.

Countering Social Engineering Tricks

Before responding to any suspicious email, especially those coming from a friend, use your best judgment and check its validity. If an unsolicited and suspicious message comes from a legitimate organization, do your research right away and contact the people concerned.

Dispose of the emails that ask you to supply personal information, such as passwords. If receive a link, do not click on it. Likewise, do not download a file.  Most importantly, protect your computer by installing anti-malware and anti-virus software.

Social engineering is one subtle aspect of hacking, as it makes use of psychology to break into your computer system. If you’re dealing with recurrent suspicious spams, do not hesitate to seek the help of an expert. In case damages have been rendered, seek the help of attorneys who handle cybercrimes.