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Five IT Support Strategies to Counter Social Engineering Attacks and Strengthen the Weakest Link in Your Cybersecurity

The Golden Corral, an American restaurant chain, recently announced a data breach that exposed the sensitive data of more than 180,000 past and present employees and stakeholders. Similarly, a cyberattack in Hamilton, Ontario has significantly disrupted city services, limiting resident access. Unfortunately, these types of negative consequences are affecting a growing number of individuals and organizations, with roughly 2,220 cyberattacks happening each day. 

Bad actors can achieve this for two reasons: they constantly hone their techniques, using technology advancements to find workarounds to thwart our cybersecurity infrastructure. But more importantly, they know how to use these methods to swindle the weakest link in your cybersecurity defense: humans, with research showing human actions impacted 74% of data breaches in a year. 

Education and awareness are your best defense mechanism against these tactics. Below, you’ll learn more about social engineering attacks and how they work, and more importantly, you’ll discover actionable IT support strategies and best practices that your organization can implement to counteract these attacks effectively.  

What is a social engineering attack?  

In a social engineering attack, criminals manipulate human emotions or take advantage of human reactions to trick individuals into disclosing sensitive data or taking a specific action that provides access to their device and/or network. Sometimes, hackers put a lot of work into their schemes, profiling a target to gather enough background information for establishing trust so they can extract details like banking information, a social security number, or other personal data. 

These attacks can happen face-to-face or on the phone, like the high-profile MGM resort attack in 2023, where a cybercriminal imitating an employee called the company helpdesk, pretending to need help after losing their login credentials. However, most social engineering attacks happen online, where the internet’s anonymity makes it easier to deceive people. 

In the most common type of social engineering attack, phishing, a hacker will send a seemingly legitimate email, with the hopes that the recipient will provide data or click on a malicious link. A phisher may pose as a government, banking, or other type of official representative. Sometimes, they may masquerade as someone you know: a colleague, your CEO, or even a friend, like when actor Warren Beatty was almost tricked recently into sending money to a cybercriminal posing as Eddie Redmayne. 

Other tactics may include: 

  • Baiting, where bad actors lure their victim with an enticing offer, 
  • Tailgating, where they may physically follow someone with legitimate access into a restricted area, or  
  • Pretexting, where the hacker creates a false scenario to get information from a target – such as in the MGM example. 

Humans are the weakest link in your cybersecurity defense 

Humans aren’t machines: we are rational people with emotions and curiosity. These traits make us susceptible to the psychological tactics that a bad actor uses to exploit our cognitive biases. 

In our always-online world, we encounter an inordinate amount of content daily. We’re also busy people, with various responsibilities on our plate and immense pressure to multitask. As a result, we’re likely to inadvertently make ourselves vulnerable – perhaps forgetting to verify a message, update software, or misconfigure our security settings. When people feel like they can’t slow down and are experiencing significant cognitive overload and decision fatigue, it’s easy to neglect our cybersecurity or act hastily and recklessly when faced with an urgent message. 

How can you prevent a social engineering attack? 

Falling victim to a social engineering attack doesn’t have to be inevitable! Your organization can empower your people and significantly reduce your risk by proactively implementing strategies that can strengthen your cybersecurity posture, such as:

  • Building a strong security culture:

A workplace environment that encourages employee vigilance will ensure that everyone on your team prioritizes organizational security. They need to feel responsible for protecting your data, and capable of acting as your first line of defense against cyber threats. You can accomplish this by taking a collaborative cybersecurity approach and giving a framework to make it easier for your employees to be accountable. Part of that will involve: 

  • Increasing employee education and awareness:

When your employees are familiar with the red flags associated with a social engineering attack, they’ll be better equipped to avoid being manipulated and to think critically about the communications they receive. Your organization can help them improve their knowledge and skills by providing regular training opportunities. These sessions should blend theory and practical hands-on exercises that help participants recognize and respond to social engineering ploys. Additionally, if your team understands the attack chain at every stage, you’ll facilitate quicker response and damage control if attacked. 

  • Prioritizing incident response planning in your cybersecurity strategy:

To help your team act effectively if a hacker breaches your system, you can benefit from proactively developing a clear and actional plan they can follow. This should outline specific steps, procedures, roles, and responsibilities, giving them a roadmap to minimize an attack’s impact on your organization. For example, employees should know if and how they need to revoke credentials, update the authorities or customers, or isolate specific systems and networks. 

  • Implementing robust verification processes:

Building a identity-driven Zero Trust IT architecture can help you create an environment that is hostile to malicious actors, even if a social engineering attack successfully deceives an employee. This would involve establishing protocols like enabling multifactor authentication, requiring continuous verification as an identity moves through your network, establishing passwordless authentication methods, etc.   

  • Employing robust technological solutions to support human vigilance 

Pairing your training programs with advanced tools will help you put forth a multi-layered defense. By implementing technologies like email filters, intrusion detection systems, anti-malware protection, and 24/7 monitoring, you will more easily detect and stop an attack while it is in progress. 

What role can IT support play in mitigating your risk? 

If you find implementing these various strategies intimidating, outsourcing the work to an IT support team can make the process easier and potentially even yield a stronger outcome.  

A third-party IT support team typically has the deep expertise and extensive experience to tackle evolving digital threats threats. They can apply their understanding of industry best practices to conduct thorough risk assessments, support with the development organizational security policies, and adhere to industry protocols when responding to incidents.  As a result, you can enhance your chances of minimizing data loss or any negative financial repercussions. 

Partner with PC Corp for IT support 

There are multiple avenues that organizations can take when it comes to responding to cyber threats and social engineering attacks. While innovative and evidence-based technologies are important for strengthening your IT infrastructure, acknowledging the role that your employees play will be critical for building the strongest defense. With adequate guidance, an informed employee who knows how to sidestep their own vulnerability can ensure your resilience.  

Your organization can achieve that by investing in employee education initiatives, paired with a proficient IT support team. By partnering with PC Corp, our managed IT services program can help keep your network and business systems secure with industry proven security applications, continuous network monitoring, regular updates and patching, and includes end user security awareness training. 

Contact PC Corp today to empower your employees to defend against threats, keep your operations running smoothly, and protect your organization’s long-term success. 


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