Rewiring The Psychology Of Employees To Combat Social Engineering Attacks

by Gracy Williams

One thing that differentiates us from the rest of the creatures is our brain. We are capable of thinking and rationalizing things. Hundreds of researches have been conducted on this little yet, the most vital organ of our body. Its complexities and infinite power are still to be unfolded. Human psychology is one such mystery. It is governed by emotions, environment, people and many other factors. Those who can understand human psychology excel in social engineering.

What Is Social Engineering?

Social engineering is the art of psychological manipulation of victims to trick them into revealing confidential and sensitive information. For a successful social engineering attack, attackers conduct background research on the intended victim by gathering personal information. They find out the potential points of the break-in and weak security protocols that are required for the attack. Let us take a detailed look at how attackers manipulate victims through different types of social engineering attacks.

Phishing

Phishing attacks are one of the most common and popular forms of social engineering attacks where attackers use social media, emails and instant messaging as well as SMS for tricking employees to visit malicious URLs in the attempt to manipulate the victim to divulge sensitive information. An email that elicits curiosity or shows a sense of urgency is sent out to employees. Multiple malicious emails may be sent as part of a spearphishing campaign. With in-depth research, attackers can even send emails with content that is specific to them.

Voice Phishing (Vishing)

This is a type of social engineering attack in which attackers trick victims over the telephone system to access an employee’s personal and financial information.

SMShing

SMShing is a form of phishing that is deployed via text messages that contain malicious links. It can trick people into divulging sensitive information.

Pretexting, baiting, pharming are some other social engineering attacks that have given sleepless nights to many companies and security professionals.

From Individual To Employees

Initially, cyber-attackers used to target individuals. However, in recent times, the focus has shifted from individuals to employees. The main reason for this shift is the measure of the impact of these attacks. When social engineering attacks are deployed on employees rather than an individual, the impact is enormous.

There is no definitive remedy for social engineering attacks. However, one potent technique that can help in evading such threats is ‘rewiring’.

How Does ‘Rewiring’ Work?

Rewiring means changing the way our brain is wired. When someone says that their brain is wired in a particular manner, it fundamentally refers to the way our brain is, physically and functionally. Studies have shown that it is possible to rewire our brain. One of the most effective ways is the continuous learning process.

Learning has a very positive impact on our brain. Learning something continuously results in an increase in the number of synapses between the neurons. This results in the faster transfer of information in the brain from one part to another.

How Does Rewiring Help In Preventing Social Engineering Attacks?

When it comes to social engineering attacks, there are tools such as KnowBe4 and ThreatCop that can help in the process of ‘rewiring’ since employees learn different methodologies that help them in combating various cyber-attacks. In a cycle of four steps, the tools and security awareness training alter employees’ behaviour and responsiveness towards social engineering attacks.

In the first stage, a simulated cyber attack is deployed on employees. This helps in analysing the general behaviour of employees towards the attack.

The second stage is known as ‘Knowledge Imparting’ that helps in the process of ‘rewiring’. Employees are imparted with informative content including intuitive videos, infographics, advisories, case studies etc. The customized learning modules are provided to employees periodically. This continuous learning process inculcates conscious behaviour in employees. They start recognizing attack patterns.

Regular assessment is an essential part of the learning process. The third stage of the tool focuses on assessing employees’ knowledge. This helps in better retention of the knowledge that has been gained during the second stage with the help of customized learning-based modules.

With continuous learning and assessment, the tool rewires the brain of employees to showcase alertness in their response towards probable cyber-attacks. The last stage helps in confirming this with another simulated attack.   

It is, therefore, imperative for organizations to focus on cyber-security measures that enable employees to identify cyber-attacks and provide them with the training to combat such attacks. Therefore, enterprises need to be aware of the significance of cyber threats that could result in potential revenue loss.

A substantial way for organizations to succeed in defending against malicious hackers and insiders is understanding how to spend their cybersecurity budget effectively. Organizations of any industry ought to make an effort to achieve the goal of building an army against cyber adversaries.

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