Uncover The Dark Side of Ethical Hacking with Social Engineering

Ethical hacking can be done with many tactics and one of the methods that is pretty controversial is social engineering. Especially since this tactic is done by manipulating individual so they will reveal sensitive information to the tester.

Security Awareness Officer

What is Social Engineering?

Actually, social engineering itself is a technique used not only by ethical hackers but also real hackers. For ethical hackers they will simulate the things that is done by real hackers so they can test security risk on the network or system which related with human factors. 

But generally, they both do the same technique by manipulating individual so they will perform specific actions or reveal sensitive information. This technique make used of human emotion in the process for example inclination to trust, fear, cognitive bias, and curiosity.

By using those inherent bias, emotion and other vulnerabilities the hackers will make the victims cannot think rationally. The hackers will use scare tactics, manipulating emotion and create urgency sense so the victim unable to think. That way the victim will reveal sensitive information, install malware to their device or click malicious links that can make them do both of those things. 

This technique can be done using various medium such as phone call, emails, text message, DM in social media and many other. The reason why many hackers do this technique is because it is actually easier to trick people to give sensitive information than hack the device directly. 

That is why, this technique is actually a very common thing used by hackers. The hackers used this method with a few goals that they want to achieve such as:

  • Getting access to network, device or account
  • Obtain sensitive information about an individual that can be used by real hackers to do financial fraud or even identity theft
  • Deploy spyware, malware, and other malicious software that can be used to harm, steal data and cause inconvenience.

Of course, the main reason why real hackers need to achieve all of those things is to get financial gains. It can be done by directly scamming the victim to send money to them or by selling the victim data. 

Meanwhile for the ethical hackers their main reason is only to get access into the system that they need to test and to find vulnerabilities related to human factor. Once this human vulnerability is found then the client will be notified to perform remedies. 

Most Common Form of Social Attack

  • Phishing
    To do this the hacker will use email as the medium. They will usually send a fraud email that pretend to be from legitimate source. Then they will trick the victim to reveal sensitive information to the hackers, clicking malicious links inside the emails and many other.
  • Vishing
    This form is done using voice call that will trick the victim to perform something or to reveal sensitive information that can be used by the hackers to do other attacks.
  • Smishing
    The hackers will use SMS to do their attack which can manipulate the psychological condition of the victim so they could not think rationally. Sometimes, this method is also used in combination with other method to make the attack more effective.

How to Prevent Social Engineering in Your Company

Create security protocols and policies

One of the main parts of cybersecurity plan is to have security protocols and policies. This method can help to set the standard that can be used by employee to treat and access resource owned by the company in secure manners. Here are some of the security protocols and policies that you need to apply to your company:

  • MFA and 2FA
    You must enforce the use of MFA and 2FA to strengthen the login method used by your employee to enter the company’s system. That way, to access the system the hackers will need more than just login details such as password and username. So, they would not be able to access the account without the MFA and 2FA. 
  • Password changes and hygiene
    Another thing that you need to enforce is for the employee to frequently change their account password. Furthermore, they should also use strong password to make it difficult for the hacker to find it.

Train Your Employee

The social engineer is making use of human factor as a path that can help them compromise your system. That is why, it is important for you to secure this path and use your employee knowledge as defense for your security. 

You need to give training to your employee which can teach them about various social engineering method and how to avoid them. You should also provide them with various tools that can help them to protect themselves as well as safeguard the company.

Manage Your Device Securely

Another thing that you can use to prevent attack is by managing your device securely. You need to make sure that all of the devices used to connect to your system are up-to-date especially for the antivirus and OS used on the device. 

Furthermore, you should also have BYOD policies that can govern the way your employee uses the device whether inside the office or at their own home. Device can include phone, laptops, IoT devices and many other. 

Perform Penetration Test

It is important for your company to perform penetration test so you can assess the risk in your system and security defense. It can help to find gaps that hidden inside the security procedure that you have.

Furthermore, you should also ask the ethical hackers that perform the penetration test to also do social engineering test for your employee to find vulnerabilities. Then you can evaluate the result and improve your security protocols and policy as needed.

Make Sure That Third Party are Also Secure

Your company might use third party for various reason such as cloud service, software service and many other. Using third party also have a risk on its own especially when the breaches come from them. 

So, it is important to make sure that any of the third party that you use are secure and review their security policies. Furthermore, you should also include it in your own security plan and find a way to mitigate risk that come from the third party.

Implement DLP

Breaches that happen previously can expose various confidential information even if the breaches does not happen on your own system. But real hackers can use the information that they purchase from dark web to send malicious emails or phishing to your company. That is why, you need to implement DLP to prevent the device from leaking data. 

How to Prevent Social Attack for Individual or Employee

As employee or individual you are also responsible for your own security. That is why, you need to protect yourself from becoming victim. Here are some things that you can use to protect yourself and prevent the attack:

  • Install antivirus on all of your devices
    Antivirus can help to detect malicious links, malware, spyware and other malicious software that used by hackers. So, you need to make sure that you install antivirus on all of your devices including computers, laptops and phones. Do not forget to allow automatic update on the antivirus so they can update the database that allows it to detect newest virus.
  • Update your software
    It is important to keep the software in your device to the latest version. Usually, software will release update to remove various vulnerabilities in the older version. Those vulnerabilities can be used to hack your device, so to prevent it from happening you need to update your software as soon as update is available. You can also set automatic update for some software from the settings.
  • Do not open or click anything suspicious
    You need to be aware when opening or clicking anything suspicious including attachments, files, or emails that come from someone that you do not trust. This include emails that claim to come from credit card or bank since they might be a phishing email that pretend to be legit even though they actually aren’t.
  • Be wary for offer
    You might get SMS or even phone calls that offers you something that is too good such as free prize, lottery win, raffle or even offering you to sign up for free trial. You should be wary since most of the time they are trying to get sensitive information and ask for your data.
  • Use 2FA
    Most website or app offers 2FA as one of their security measures. But they usually are not on by default. So, you need to go to the setting and turn on this option to help secure your account.
  • Use DMARC
    You need to use DMARC an authentication protocols that can help securing your email against social engineering, domain abuse and phishing. You can add this to most email provider so you need to make sure that you are using it.


As you can see social engineering is using human as the vulnerable point to gain access to sensitive information or even as entry point to break into a system. That is why, it is important to protect your company, your employee and even yourself as individual from becoming the victim. 

Tags: social engineering, social engineering method, social engineering technique, social engineering tactic, prevent social engineering,

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