The cybersecurity world constantly faces new threats as the cyber crime world continues to evolve as hackers and threat actors come up with varied techniques to target government, organizations and individuals.
Among these attacks, social engineering has emerged to be a popular method used by cybercriminals and continues to be a prevalent threat.
In 1984, Dutch industrialist J.C. Van Marken was first believed to have used the term social engineering, which is a way to manipulates unsuspecting victims into giving confidential information.
Once the threat actor has the details, they can use a variety of tactics, including phishing, pretexting, and baiting, to carry out cyber attacks.
Despite the increase in cybersecurity efforts, the tactics used by cybercriminals have become increasingly sophisticated and harder to detect.
In this article, we explore the changing landscape of social engineering 2023, new techniques being used by cybercriminals and the upcoming trends. We also take a look at AI in social engineering 2023 and the rise of deepfake technology in cyber attacks.
Social Engineering 2023: What has changed?
Since the inception of computer malware, social engineering has been the main module of how and when malware is delivered. It is also the core foundation of hackers selecting their victims before launching an attack.
However, the social engineering 2023 phase has undergone various changes. In 2023, social engineering is expected to be among the top priorities of companies and the cybersecurity sector.
The reason is — one can prepare for an attack but not for data leaks inside the organization, often caused by human error.
Social Engineering 2023: Top 5 techniques
As technology advances, the social engineering threats have become harder to detect. Cybercriminals continue to hone their skills, using increasingly sophisticated tactics that are difficult to identify and thwart. Here are some of the top social engineering techniques used by cybercriminals.
Phishing is a form of social engineering that has been a persistent threat for years and is still prevalent in the social engineering 2023 era.
The technique involves using emails, text messages, or other forms of communication to deceive individuals into revealing sensitive information, such as their login credentials or financial data.
Cybercriminals often create fake emails from trustworthy sources like banks, government agencies, or reputable online retailers.
The emails typically contain links that lead to fraudulent websites that look identical to the real ones. Once users enter their personal information on these bogus sites, cybercriminals can collect and exploit their sensitive data for malicious purposes.
In social engineering, baiting is a strategy that involves offering something desirable to a target in exchange for access to their sensitive information or system.
Examples of bait could include free downloads, fake job postings, or counterfeit products. In social engineering 2023 trends, baiting attacks have become more advanced and harder to detect.
Today’s cybercriminals may use more effective social engineering methods, such as building fake social media profiles or advertising a false business opportunity, to lure in their victims.
The bait may also be disguised as a genuine object that the target is more likely to trust and accept, like a branded USB drive. Once the target takes the bait, the cybercriminal gains access to their system or confidential data, leaving the victim vulnerable to exploitation.
Pretexting is a social engineering technique that fabricates a false scenario or pretext to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information or granting access to secure systems. In 2023, pretexting continues to be a popular tactic malicious actors use in social engineering attacks.
The attacker will typically concoct a plausible story or pretext to gain the victim’s trust, often posing as someone they are familiar with, like a co-worker or vendor.
They may also pretend to conduct a survey or investigation to gain more information. To enhance their deceitful scheme, they might employ social engineering methods, such as phishing emails or phone calls, to further manipulate the victim and extract additional confidential data.
Tailgating remains a social engineering tactic where attackers attempt to gain unauthorized physical access to secure areas, such as offices or data centers.
The attacker will position themselves near a designated access point, such as a door or turnstile, and follow behind an authorized individual with access to the secured area.
In doing so, the attacker can bypass any security protocols or measures, such as key cards or biometric scanners, that may be in place.
Virtual tailgating is another threat that can occur when cybercriminals follow closely behind authorized users in a virtual environment. These attackers may use social engineering techniques like phishing emails to enter sensitive information.
By taking advantage of the authorized users, tailgating in both physical and virtual environments can lead to a breach in security and pose a significant risk to an organization’s security posture.
Dumpster diving is a popular social engineering technique that most companies neglect. However, with the current social engineering 2023 trends, dumpster diving is no less than a gold mine for hungry hackers.
The technique involves searching through garbage or waste disposal sites to uncover sensitive or confidential information. This can include discarded documents, such as bank statements, credit card receipts, or personal identification information, which can be used for malicious purposes.
In 2023, dumpster diving may still be viable for cybercriminals to obtain sensitive information, particularly as more businesses and individuals move toward digital storage and communication.
Nevertheless, social engineers may also use other tactics, such as phishing scams or pretexting, to extract confidential information. Individuals and organizations must know these tactics and take appropriate measures to protect sensitive information.
What has changed in social engineering 2023 trends?
For many years, hackers and cybercriminals have used social engineering techniques to gain unauthorized access to confidential information.
However, in recent years, there has been a marked surge in the prevalence and complexity of these attacks. Several cybersecurity experts have predicted that social engineering 2023 tactics will continue advancing in sophistication and frequency.
Cybercriminals have become more adept at exploiting human nature and psychology to persuade people to divulge sensitive information or carry out specific actions.
They utilize various tactics to achieve their objectives, such as phishing, pretexting, baiting, tailgating, dumpster diving, and more.
Thus, it is more than necessary for individuals and organizations to be aware of these techniques and take steps to safeguard themselves against these attacks.
This may include implementing robust security measures, educating employees about social engineering risks, and adopting new technology before threat actors.
AI in social engineering 2023
The malicious use of artificial intelligence (AI) in social engineering can lead to the manipulation of human behavior, resulting in the theft of personal information or the deception of individuals into performing actions that benefit the attacker.
By utilizing psychological manipulation and exploiting human vulnerabilities, social engineering attacks can become even more effective with the help of AI.
Automating data collection and creating persuasive messages can significantly enhance the potential impact of such attacks.
The rise of deepfake technology has introduced a new avenue for social engineering attacks, where artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to deceive individuals into believing false information.
Deepfakes leverage machine learning algorithms to create highly realistic images, audio, and videos that can easily fool viewers into thinking they are authentic.
Deep fakes in social engineering attacks can impersonate high-profile individuals, such as celebrities or government officials, and spread false information.
For instance, a deepfake video of a politician making controversial statements could manipulate public opinion, sow discord, or influence election outcomes. The potential for harm is immense, highlighting the urgent need for effective countermeasures to prevent the malicious use of deepfake technology.
Vishing, also known as voice phishing, is a social engineering attack that utilizes voice communication, often via phone, to deceive individuals into divulging sensitive information, including passwords, bank account details, or social security numbers.
These attacks are often carried out by impersonating trustworthy entities, such as government agencies, banks, or technical support representatives, and employing various tactics to gain the victim’s confidence.
The attacker may use spoofing techniques to make it appear that the call originates from a legitimate phone number, such as the victim’s bank or employer.
In addition, social engineering techniques may be employed to manipulate the victim’s emotions, such as instilling fear or urgency, to pressure them into providing sensitive information, or taking action that benefits the attacker.
Smishing, or SMS phishing, is a social engineering attack that leverages text messages to deceive individuals into divulging sensitive information or taking action that benefits the attacker.
Smishing attacks are similar to phishing attacks, but instead of email, the attacker uses text messages to deliver their message.
In many cases, smishing attacks involve the attacker posing as a trusted entity, such as a bank, government agency, or technology company, and employing various tactics to gain the victim’s confidence.
For instance, the attacker may send a text message claiming that there has been unusual activity on the victim’s account and requesting that they provide their account number and password to verify their identity.
Influence tactics refer to the methods utilized by social engineers to sway individuals or groups into undertaking a specific action or revealing confidential information.
Scammers often pose as authoritative figures to achieve this objective, thereby gaining compliance or knowledge from the targeted individuals.
Moreover, social engineers may create a sense of urgency or scarcity to pressure the targets to provide information or take action.
Additionally, they build rapport with the targets by creating a sense of trust and likability, which aids in gaining compliance or knowledge.
Social Engineering 2023: Summing up everything
As the sophistication of social engineering attacks continues to increase, they pose a significant threat to individuals and organizations.
Vigilance against these attacks is crucial to safeguard personal information, prevent financial losses, maintain business continuity, and comply with regulatory requirements.
To effectively mitigate the risks of social engineering attacks, individuals and organizations must adopt security best practices, educate their employees, and remain current with the latest security threats. They can significantly reduce their susceptibility to these attacks by taking these measures.
The rise in popularity of the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices presents a new avenue for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities and launch social engineering attacks.
Therefore, remaining vigilant, adopting security best practices, and continuously educating oneself on the latest security threats are vital to reducing the risk of social engineering attacks in the future.