A type of confidence trick for the purpose of information gathering, fraud, or system access, it differs from a traditional “con” in that it is often one of many steps in a more complex fraud scheme.
It has also been defined as “any act that influences a person to take an action that may or may not be in their best interests.”
Any definition that includes the words “psychological manipulation” and “con” always gets my attention, how about you. Big companies like Facebook, Google, or Tik-Tok use social engineering as well, but they are not necessarily trying to steal your information (they already have it), but rather the use it to lure you to stay on their platforms longer and click on ads more.
Side Note: If you haven’t seen “The Social Dilemma” on NetFlix yet you should. We posted a review about the show on our Instagram TV page. You don’t have to watch the whole documentary, a 30 minute clip will suffice. You will walk away with a whole new understanding of what social engineering means. End Side Note.
We have indirectly touched on social engineering in several of this months’ 31 Days of Spooky Scary Internet Safety Hacks. The following issues all involve social engineering:
- Day 1 Bullying
- Day 3 Passwords
- Day 5 Elder Online Abuse
- Day 6 Gaming Addiction
- Day 7 Virus
- Day 8 Hacking
- Day 9 Identity Theft
- Day 10 Grooming
- Day 14 Phishing
- Day 17 Sextortion
- Day 22 Worms
- Day 25 YouTube
- Day 29 Wi-Fi Hacking
….and the list can go on. Sale people and marketing executives have used some form of social engineering to get us to buy their wares for generations so what is the big deal? The internet has WEAPONIZED social engineering. Due to 24/7 access to online platforms we are drowning issues like: poor self-esteem, depression, feelings of inadequacy, envy, poor body image, eating disorders, burn-out, etc. Never before have we had so much, and yet we are so unhappy, because we are made to believe that we need a new phone, a new friend, and new follower, a new house, a new diet, a new drug, and new (fill-in-the-blank)…in order to be happy. All we have to do is CLICK HERE.
We need to recognize social engineering in order to protect ourselves from it.
These are the universal human traits they will try and exploit (and some examples):
- Vanity (You look great! Are you a model? You must workout a lot!)
- Curiosity (You won’t believe what so-and-so posted about you. Click here to see. This is what I looked like after the surgery went wrong. Click here)
- Altruism (I only need $50 to be able to afford the surgery for my mom. Click here)
- Fear (I hacked your camera and I recorded you watching porn. Send money to delete pictures)
- Insecurity (Join our group. We have 20,000 followers that will be your friend)
- Need to Belong (These friends already liked our page. Click here to follow us)
- Be liked, be popular. (Let us have access to your Facebook contacts so you share with your friends and get followers to cheer you on)
The best advice I have about Social Engineering beside being able to spot it, is this
- Never be in a rush or emotional online.
- Think before you click.
- Real World ALWAYS trumps Digital World.
- If something is too good to be true…it is.
- When in doubt, go offline and talk to a trusted friend.