How To Protect Yourself From Social Engineering

Adam QuirkThere is no end to the methods that scammers have come up with to attain information vital to the success of their schemes. Whether they are seeking to perpetrate fraud, hacking or espionage, the most tried and true method is also one of the oldest: social engineering. It is one of the most successful because it is one of the least obvious methods, and can often require much more effort than would be reasonable for the small kernels of information that it can gather. However, those small nuggets of information can be as precious as gold to someone with the worst of intentions. Understanding and preventing social engineering is essential to protecting yourself and your business from everything from financial scams to identity theft.

So what is social engineering?

Adam QuirkSocial engineering is basically an attempt to attain personal or confidential information through manipulation and subterfuge. This can be online or face to face, in conversation or through electronic collection of data. It is a concerted effort to exploit trust in order to obtain information ranging from what you might be working on, to passwords that will allow access to data or processes. This is usually accomplished by individuals misrepresenting themselves as someone who would have a legitimate need for this information.

How to prevent social engineering

While there may be no way of completely eliminating the threat of social engineering, it can be mitigated by proper awareness and action. Here are some common sense steps that will take the bite out of social engineering attempts.

1. Treat Every Email As If It Were Potentially Compromised

401044-securityEmails, even those from trusted friends and co-workers, can be accessed and manipulated by any number of people. Even legitimate-looking emails from holders of your personal information such as your financial institution should not be trusted enough for you to click on the links to access your account. If at all possible, securely access the site on your web browser rather than clicking suspect links.

2. Never Reveal Personal Information Over The Phone

A common scam is to receive a call off someone claiming to be a financial or government entity. They may ask you to verify your identity with your social security number, date of birth, password or other information. If you cannot verify the number that is calling you as belonging to that entity, never give the information. It is safer to hang up and contact the organization directly at a known secure phone number to see if there is business that requires that verification.

3. Watch What You Say And To Whom You Say It

When someone you have just met is interested in your work or personal life, be very sparse with details and give them only what they need to know. Something as simple as what you are working on or when your birthday is could give them the information they need to advance their plan just one step closer.

While these may seem at first to be extreme steps to take, scammers are relying on your trusting nature to take social engineering attempts at face value.

Adam Quirk is a criminal justice professional with over 15 years of experience in the field. Adam also owns Stealth Advise, Wisconsin’s premier private investigations firm. In his free time, Adam enjoys blogging and traveling internationally.

Hacked: How To Spot A Home Network Security Breach

401044-securityThe vast majority of homes in the U.S. have at least one wi-fi network. Thankfully, setting up these in-home networks can be a fairly easy task. However, keeping them safe requires cybersecurity awareness and vigilance. Living in an interconnected world has made it easy for people to go about their day-to-day tasks. Sadly, the average internet user can be a target of identity thieves and hackers online. The good news is, you don’t need to be a Cybersecurity expert to keep your home wireless network safe. Here are some ways to detect if a home network has been hacked:

Computers in the network receive the same virus and anti-virus notifications.

Home network security breaches can easily begin with one infected desktop computer, laptop or tablet.   A cyber hacking attack typically starts with one computer.   When one of the devices, typically PCs, have a virus, it can spread easily to the other devices connected to the network.  Using infected USBs and hard drives can also contribute to the damage. Make sure to protect all of your devices with the latest anti-virus software, and be sure to install updates on a regular basis. Better yet, set the software to automatically update in order to ensure the best protection. You can download free anti-virus programs like Avast that will provide excellent protection for your computers.

Computers automatically download unwanted programs and browsers.

Adam QuirkBe careful when clicking links in web pages and emails.  Avoid clicking promotions for apps before clicking on them to download.  Unfortunately, some of the so-called antivirus programs do more harm than good by automatically downloading unwanted browsers and dialog boxes that can lead to stolen information. Rather thank clicking through every box when installing programs or applications on your devices, take a close look at what you’re actually downloading to be sure there are no unwanted applications or programs being installed.

Users receive suspicious e-mails.

When a home network has been hacked, important information such as e-mail addresses can be used to steal further from a user.  Emails from a friend’s unused address or from seemingly legit organizations can be a phishing scam.  When people from one network get the same kind of e-mails, their security might have been compromised.

The wi-fi connection is unusually slow and there are suddenly unknown computers connected to the network.

Adam QuirkIt’s easy to leech off a neighbor’s wi-fi connection especially if is not properly secured.  One of the tell-tale signs of a home network breach is if there are suddenly more computers connected to the network. For some, the hacking goes as far as controlling mouse clicks and movements and copying files from the users’ computers.

To prevent hacking attacks, it’s important to regularly check network your security. Passwords must be regularly changed and important information should always be backed up in the cloud or in another hard drive.  Also, users should only download files and programs from legit sources to prevent falling prey to phishing scams.

One of the most common precautions but usually overlooked step when it comes to home network security is to set up a firewall and encrypt the connection.  Others just set up their home Wi-Fi without even putting a password on their connection, making them an easy target.  Aside from these steps, filtering MAC addresses will also help in preventing unknown computers join the network.