As cybercrime continues to surge, security leaders must understand that there is no such thing as a perfect, fool-proof, impenetrable secure environment. Many organisations fall into the trap of trying to use technology as the only means of defending their networks and forgetting that the power of human awareness and intervention is paramount in arriving to a highly secured state.
Every security leader faces the same conundrum: even as they increase their investment in sophisticated security orchestration, cybercrime continues to rise. Security is often presented as a race between effective technologies and clever attack methodologies. Yet there’s an overlooked layer that can radically reduce an organisation’s vulnerability: security awareness training and frequent simulated social engineering testing.
Verizon’s 2019 data breach investigation report shows that phishing remains the #1 threat action used in successful breaches linked to social engineering and malware attacks.
These criminals successfully evade an organisation’s security controls by using clever phishing and social engineering tactics that often rely on employee naivety. Emails, phone calls and other outreach methods are designed to persuade staff to take steps that provide criminals with access to company data and funds.
Each organisation’s employee susceptibility to these phishing attacks is known as their Phish-Prone™ percentage (PPP). By translating phishing risk into measurable terms, leaders can quantify their breach likelihood and adopt training that reduces their human attack surface.
Do you know how your organisation compares to your peers of similar size? Download the KnowBe4 benchmarking report to find out!
You will learn more about:
New phishing benchmark data for 19 industries
Understanding who’s at risk and what you can do about it
Actionable tips to create your “human firewall”
The value of new-school security awareness training
CEO Fraud is a scam in which cybercriminals spoof company email accounts and impersonate executives to try and fool an employee in accounting or HR into executing unauthorised online transfers or sending out confidential tax information.
Also known as “Business Email Compromise” and BEC is defined as “a sophisticated scam targeting businesses working with foreign suppliers and/or businesses that regularly perform wire transfer payments. The scam is carried out by compromising legitimate business email accounts through social engineering or computer intrusion techniques to conduct unauthorised transfers of funds.”
The Four Attack Methods
Understanding the different attack vectors for this type of crime is key when it comes to prevention. This is how the bad guys do it:
Phishing emails are sent to large numbers of users simultaneously in an attempt to “fish” sensitive information by posing as reputable sources—often with legitimate-looking logos attached. Banks, credit card providers, delivery firms, law enforcement, and the IRS are a few of the common ones. A phishing campaign typically shoots out emails to huge numbers of users. Most of them are to people who don’t use that bank, for example, but by sheer weight of numbers, these emails arrive at a certain percentage of likely candidates.
2. Spear Phishing
This is a much more focused form of phishing. The cybercriminal has either studied up on the group or has gleaned data from social media sites to con users. A spear phishing email generally goes to one person or a small group of people who use that bank or service. Some form of personalisation is included – perhaps the person’s name, or the name of a client.
3. Executive Whaling
Here, the bad guys target top executives and administrators, typically to siphon off money from accounts or steal confidential data. Personalisation and detailed knowledge of the executive and the business are the hallmarks of this type of fraud.
4. Social Engineering
Within a security context, social engineering means the use of psychological manipulation to trick people into divulging confidential information or providing access to funds. The art of social engineering might include mining information from social media sites. LinkedIn, Facebook and other venues provide a wealth of information about organisational personnel. This can include their contact information, connections, friends, ongoing business deals and more.
Who Are The Main Targets?
The CEO isn’t always the one in a criminal’s crosshairs. There are four other groups of employees considered valuable targets given their roles and access to funds/information:
The finance department is especially vulnerable in companies that regularly engage in large wire transfers. All too often, sloppy internal policies only demand an email from the CEO or other senior person to initiate the transfer. Cybercriminals usually gain entry via phishing, spend a few months doing recon and formulate a plan. They mirror the usual wire transfer authorization protocols, hijack a relevant email account and send the request to the appropriate person in finance to transmit the funds. As well as the CFO, this might be anyone in accounts that is authorized to transfer funds.
Human Resources represents a wonderfully open highway into the modern enterprise. After all, it has access to every person in the organisation, manages the employee database and is in charge of recruitment. As such, a major function is to open résumés from thousands of potential applicants. All the cybercriminals need to do is include spyware inside a résumé and they can surreptitiously begin their early data gathering activities. In addition, W2 and PII scams have become more commonplace. HR receives requests from spoofed emails and ends up sending employee information such as social security numbers and employee email addresses to criminal organisations.
Every member of the executive team can be considered a high-value target. Many possess some kind of financial authority. If their email accounts are hacked, it generally provides cybercriminals access to all kinds of confidential information, not to mention intelligence on the type of deals that may be ongoing. Thus, executive accounts must receive particular attention from a security perspective.
The IT manager and IT personnel with authority over access controls, password management and email accounts are further high-value targets. If their credentials can be hacked, they gain entry to every part of the organisation.
Here Are Eight Prevention Steps
Many steps must dovetail closely together as part of an effective prevention program:
Social engineering is the art of manipulating, influencing, or deceiving you in order to gain control over your computer system. The hacker might use the phone, email, snail mail or direct contact to gain illegal access.
Phishing, spear phishing, and CEO Fraud are all examples.
What is a social engineer?
OK, so who are these people? It could be a hacker in the USA who is out to do damage or disrupt. It could be a member of an Eastern Europe cybercrime mafia that is trying to penetrate your network and steal cash from your online bank account. Or, it could be a Chinese hacker that is trying to get in your organisation’s network for corporate espionage.
Top 10 techniques used by social engineers
Understanding the different attack vectors for this type of crime is key when it comes to prevention. This is how the bad guys do it:
Pretexting – An invented scenario is used to engage a potential victim to try and increase the chance that the victim will bite. It’s a false motive usually involving some real knowledge of the victim (e.g. date of birth, Social Security number, etc.) in an attempt to get even more information.
Diversion theft – A ‘con’ exercised by professional thieves, usually targeted at a transport or courier company. The objective is to trick the company into making the delivery somewhere other than the intended location.
Phishing – The process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity using bulk email which tries to evade spam filters. Emails claiming to be from popular social web sites, banks, auction sites, or IT administrators are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting public. It’s a form of criminally fraudulent social engineering. Also see Spear Phishing.
Spear phishing – A small, focused, targeted attack via email on a particular person or organisation with the goal to penetrate their defenses. The spear phishing attack is done after research on the target and has a specific personalised component designed to make the target do something against their own interest.
Water-holing – This technique takes advantage of websites people regularly visit and trust. The attacker will gather information about a targeted group of individuals to find out what those websites are, then test those websites for vulnerabilities. Over time, one or more members of the targeted group will get infected and the attacker can gain access to the secure system.
Baiting – Baiting means dangling something in front of a victim so that they take action. It can be through a peer-to-peer or social networking site in the form of a (porn) movie download or it can be a USB drive labelled “Q1 Layoff Plan” left out in a public place for the victim to find. Once the device is used or malicious file is downloaded, the victim’s computer is infected allowing the criminal to take over the network.
Quid pro quo – Latin for ‘something for something’, in this case it’s a benefit to the victim in exchange for information. A good example is hackers pretending to be IT support. They will call everyone they can find at a company to say they have a quick fix and “you just need to disable your AV”. Anyone that falls for it gets malware like ransomware installed on their machine.
Tailgating – A method used by social engineers to gain access to a building or other protected area. A tailgater waits for an authorised user to open and pass through a secure entry and then follows right behind.
Honeytrap – A trick that makes men interact with a fictitious attractive female online. From old spy tactics where a real female was used.
Rogue – Also, Rogue Scanner, rogue anti-spyware, rogue anti-malware or scareware, rogue security software is a form of computer malware that deceives or misleads users into paying for the fake or simulated removal of malware. Rogue security software, in recent years, has become a growing and serious security threat in desktop computing. It is a very popular and there are literally dozens of these programs.
You may have heard of Norton antivirus, published by Symantec. The technical director of Symantec Security Response said that bad guys are generally not trying to exploit technical vulnerabilities in Windows. They are going after you instead.
“You don’t need as many technical skills to find one person who might be willing, in a moment of weakness, to open up an attachment that contains malicious content.”
Only about 3% of the malware they run into tries to exploit a technical flaw. The other 97% is trying to trick a user through some type of social engineering scheme. This means it does not matter if your workstation is a PC or a Mac. The last line of defence is… you guessed it: YOU!
How can you prevent attacks?
We’ve pulled together some resources to help you defend against social engineering attacks. A good place to start is ensure you have all levels of defense in depth in place. Keep reading below to find out how you can make yourself a hard target, get additional content for yourself and your users and stay up to date with social engineering in the news via our blog.
Social engineering attacks, including ransomware, business email compromise (BEC) and phishing, are problems that can never be solved, but rather only managed with a focus on security awareness training.
Run frequent simulated social engineering tests to keep users on their toes with security top of mind
Did you know that 77% of successful social engineering attacks started with a phishing email?
Find out what percentage of your employees are Phish-prone™ with your free Phishing Security Test. Plus, give them point-of-failure training using our Social Engineering Indicators feature. Go Phishing Now!
Social engineering tip sheet
The below infographic will show your users what to watch out for in emails. We highly recommend you print it out, it’s a great at a glance reminder.
Hosted by Gerard Brown at NetUtils and joined by guest speakers Ollie Pech, Channel MSP Manager and Javvad Malik, Security Awareness Advocate from KnowBe4 and known blogger and YouTuber within the infosec industry.
The title of this webinar poses a critical question all organisations should be asking themselves in this ever-changing world. While a layered security infrastructure is an absolute must to protect against the growing variety of threats organisations face today, there’s a hidden threat that is often-overlooked. What is this hidden danger… IT’S YOUR USERS?
The facts from NetUtils
Did you know, more than 90% of successful hacks and data breaches, all start with phishing scams? That’s a huge number considering the sheer volume of data breaches you hear about in the news on a daily basis.
According to the APWG Phishing Activity Trends Report for Q3 2019, phishing scams have reached the highest level in just three years, this level not seen since 2016! Below is a snapshot of the stats over the past year. What makes the chart of interest is the 46% increase of phishing sites detected between Q2 and Q3 of this year. And an almost 100% increase in phishing sites detected in Q4 of 2018, this time last year. *
* APWG Phishing Activity Trends Report Q3 – 2019
8 reasons why we partner with one of the best Security Awareness Training vendors in the industry
To help our customers educate their end users and to keep security top of mind!
The world’s largest integrated Security Awareness Training and Simulated Phishing platform, founded in 2010
With over 28,000 customers and 9.5million users KnowBe4 helps organisations manage an ongoing problem of social engineering
The ‘last layer’ of security is the Security Awareness layer, only really been taken into consideration over the last few years i.e. your human firewall
KnowBe4 have developed tremendously as a business from a “nice to have” within organisation to be a “must have”
Over a thousand training modules that are pre aligned to the platform that are all around security awareness and includes some HR modules and over 80 compliance modules
A simulated phishing platform with an iterative process; train, phish and analyse, all of the time
The KnowBe4 console helps organisations see where their end users are having trouble understanding security, this is backed up with over 1000 training modules to support learning. Not used to name and blame
Assists organisations in reducing malware infections, data loss and potential cyber threat, whilst increasing user productivity
Empowering Your Human Firewall
Always remember as a business you are dealing with human
beings and to do that, you have to understand behaviour and how to influence
that behaviour. Ultimately, the goal is, to move your staff from insecure
behaviours to better behavioural patterns so they can take a risk-based
approach to any actions they take.
There are 3 realities of Security Awareness:
because I’m aware doesn’t mean I care
try to work against human nature, you will fail
your employees do is way more important than what they know
Take the book by Daniel Kahneman called Thinking, Fast & Slow – there are 2 types of systems he outlines; System 1 called Fast Thinking, this is the way a person reacts to everyday routine, they don’t really think about the actions as this is just natural behaviour i.e. making a cup of tea. However, when we look at System 2 thinking referred to as Slow Thinking, this is used to solve specific problems when necessary, it’s more complicated and requires thought.
When it comes to Security Awareness and your organisation
you actually start with System 2, the Slow Thinking, to try and get people
really thinking. The more you do this the more it becomes a System 1 way of
thinking. That is why continuous awareness and training is vital. The goal, to
make Security Awareness a natural behaviour within your organisation, like making
that cup of tea, make it a habit over time and get that way of thinking
embedded into your company culture.
Your awareness program should NOT focus only on information
delivery. Do you care more about what your people know or what they do?
During our webinar Javvad revealed an interesting take away from Dr. BJ Fogg, known in the field of ‘Behaviour Design’ and The Fogg Behavior Model.
“Behaviour happens when three things come together at the same time: Motivation, Ability, and a Prompt to do the behaviour.”
Motivation – are your users sufficiently motivated to an action
Ability – do they have the ability to do that action
Prompt – the nudge to get them to do that action
Take these behaviours into consideration when designing your training programs so all boxes are ticked. Get specific as to what behaviours you want to change and target them.
Here at NetUtils we partner with KnowBe4 to help our customers educate their end users and keep security top of mind. Security Awareness Training should be part of your cyber security strategy and embedded into your cultural fabric especially when human error is still one of the leading causes of data breaches today.
To help you on your way we’ve got some cool FREE tools to get you started!
Free Phishing Security Test – Find out what percentage of your users are Phish-prone. Get yours here.
Free Email Exposure Check – Find out which of your users’ emails are exposed before the bad guys do. Get yours here.
Free Domain Spoof Test – Find out if hackers can spoof an email address of your own domain. Get yours here.
Free Phish Alert Button – Your employee’s now have a safe way to report phishing attacks with one click. Get yours here.
Ransomware Simulator – Find out how vulnerable your network is against ransomware attacks. Get yours here.