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What is Social Engineering? – Definition, Origin, Types, And More

What is Social Engineering? – Definition, Origin, Types, And More

Definition Social Engineering

Social engineering seeks to exploit weakest links in any security chain, humans, appealing to vanity, greed, curiosity, altruism, or respect or fear of people’s authority. To get it to reveal certain information or allow access to a computer system.

We talk a lot about software vulnerabilities, and human versions of them are our emotions. When people face terrifying situations, the first reaction is to act and then think. Social engineering builds on this “vulnerability” for attacks to be successful.

Origin of Social Engineering

There are several social engineering techniques that thieves use. They include:

  • bait (offering you something you want to get you to download a malicious file)
  • phishing (a fraudulent email for you to share personal information)
  • excuses (impersonating someone else to gain access to inside information)
  • scareware (cheating on you to believe that your computer is infected with malware and then offer a solution that infects the computer)

Types of Social Engineering attacks

Social engineering is one of how cybercriminals use interactions between people so that the user shares confidential information. Since social engineering works on human nature and human reactions. There are many ways that attackers can cheat, online or offline.


Humans are curious, which is essential in these situations. The cybercriminal can leave a device, such as a USB memory stick, infected with malicious software in plain view in a public space. Someone will pick up that device and connect it to your computer to see what it contains. At that time, malicious software will get introduced to the computer.


It is the oldest trick among cybercriminals and remains one of the most successful. Fear-based tactics are the most popular among criminals, and typically involve a bank account or other online account. This tactic depends on users making decisions based on fear and how they feel, rather than thinking about the situation for a moment. Other versions of emails come from an authority figure, asking for your username and password to access a system. People usually comply with the request if it comes from a coworker, particularly if they have a higher administrative hierarchy. Another popular tactic used for phishing is to convey a sense of urgency.

Email hacking and spamming contacts

Paying attention to what we receive from acquaintances is a natural reaction. If my sister sends me an email with the subject “Look at this site I found, it’s amazing,” I will open it without thinking twice. That is why cybercriminals search for email addresses and passwords. Once they get those credentials, they can seize the account and spam all contacts in the user’s address book. The main goal is to spread malicious software, trick people into getting their data, and more.


A pretext is an elaborate story that the cybercriminal invents to create a situation to catch his victims. Sometimes it is a tragic story of a stranded person abroad or a prince from an unknown country whose father has just passed away and who needs $ 500 to take over the throne. These types of situations appeal to the tendency of people to help those who need it. Pretexts are usually used in combination with several of the other methods, because most situations require some story to attract the target’s attention or because the attacker impersonates another person on a phone call.

Quid Pro Quo

One thing for another. In this type of scam, users get tempted to win something, such as prizes or discounts on expensive products. But only once they have completed a form requesting a large amount of personal information. All the collected data gets used for identity theft.

Spear phishing

Spear phishing is related to phishing, although it is a little more complicated. It is a campaign aimed at employees of a particular company from which cyber criminals want to steal data. The criminal chooses a target in the organization and conducts an online investigation of him, during which he collects personal and interest information from searches he conducts on the Internet and from his social media profiles.

Once the criminal knows the target, he begins to send them emails that are relevant and personal to him to persuade him to click on a malicious link. That houses malicious software or to download a malicious file. We all check our emails and our social media profiles while connected to the company network, and cybercriminals depend on it. Once the user gets duped, the malicious software is installed on the network computer, allowing it to spread quickly to other computers within the company network.


Vishing is the one that involves the most human interaction. The criminal calls the employee of a company and impersonates a trusted person or a representative of his bank or other company with which he does business. Then, he tries to obtain information on the target by posing as a colleague who lost his password (and asks the employee for his) or by asking him a series of questions to verify his identity.

Social engineering can be done in two ways: with a single attack, such as a phishing email, or in a more sophisticated way, usually directed at institutions.

These two methods are known as Hunting and farming


The short version of these attacks is Hunting. Cybercriminals typically use phishing, bait, and email hacking to extract as much data from the victim as possible with as little interaction as possible.


It is a long-running scam in which cyber criminals seek to establish a relationship with the target. Typically, they look at the target’s social media profiles and try to build a relationship with the target based on the information they collect during the investigation. This type of attack depends on the pretext, as the attacker tries to trick the victim.

Social engineering is everywhere, online, and offline. The great success it has is due to the only component involved in which we cannot install security software: the human being. The best precaution is to get informed and know the warning signs.

How to eliminate Social Engineering

social engineering is a technique rather than something physical; it really can’t be removed from your computer. The only way to avoid social engineering is not to get fooled. If you have been a victim of social engineering, the best option is to use a high-quality antivirus program to remove all malicious files and change all your passwords using a powerful password management application to create and save undecipherable passwords.

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