Social Engineering and its Countermeasures

Social Engineering and its Countermeasures

Douglas P. Twitchell (Illinois State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-132-2.ch014
OnDemand PDF Download:
$37.50

Abstract

This chapter introduces and defines social engineering, a recognized threat to the security of information systems. It also introduces a taxonomy for classifying social engineering attacks along four dimensions: who or what the targets are, what media are used, how the attacks fit in an attack cycle, and the techniques used to execute the attacks. Additionally, the chapter discusses current social engineering countermeasures and how to map attack types to these countermeasures. Finally, the chapter ends with a discussion of future trends and technologies for defending against social engineering attacks. Use of the taxonomy should help security professionals and researchers understand social engineering attacks, and implementation of the discussed current and future countermeasures should help professionals reduce the risks associated with social engineering attacks.
Chapter Preview
Top

Introduction

In 1970, Jerry Schneider took part in an early example of social engineering. While dumpster diving the local Pacific Telephone office, Jerry found the procedures for making internal equipment orders and charging them to company accounts. Posing on the phone, or pretexting, as company employees he was able to get the correct account numbers and eventually stole and resold about $250,000 in computer equipment (Whiteside, 1979). Twenty-five years later, in 2005, Hewlett-Packard’s board discovered that sensitive information from a board meeting had been leaked to the media. The chairman of the board decided to determine the culprit and hired a security consulting firm for the job. Private investigators from the firm called the phone company and, posing as the victims, or pretexting, obtained the phone records of members of the media without their knowledge (Kersetter, 2006; Shankland, 2006). Recently, many people with email accounts have been recipients of yet another social engineering attack, phishing, the use of deceptive emails to encourage users to input sensitive identifying data. These three cases are specific examples of a more general information security phenomenon: social engineering.

Social engineering is the use of deception and other non-technical means to gain unauthorized access to information or information systems. Social engineering has been used to describe a number of attacks ranging from widespread phishing for identity information to targeted pretexting for corporate or governmental espionage. Social engineers rely on psychological triggers (e.g., fear, kindness, and greed) and cognitive biases (e.g., truth bias, anchoring, and miscalculation of risk) to gain unauthorized access and evade detection. For the most part, current countermeasures against social engineering attacks rely on people for prevention by educating users through awareness programs and by policy implementation, enforcement and auditing, although new technical countermeasures are emerging.

This chapter has the following objectives:

  • Define social engineering

  • Provide a taxonomy of social engineering attacks

  • Discuss emotional triggers and cognitive biases on which social engineers rely

  • Describe current social engineering countermeasures and how they map to techniques

  • Discuss future trends in social engineering research and countermeasures

Top

Definition

Social engineering has been used to describe a number of attacks ranging from widespread phishing for identity information to narrow pretexting for specific records. It is unclear who first coined the term “social engineering,” but several have attempted to define it. Some definitions are as simple as “the art and science of getting people to comply to your wishes” (Harl, 1997) to much more complex definitions. For the purposes of this chapter, social engineering will be defined as follows:

Social Engineering is the exploitation of psychological triggers and cognitive biases as a means to gain unauthorized access to information or information systems.

Phishing and pretexting are only two examples of social engineering attacks that manipulate or deceive targets to obtain information. Table 1 contains some additional examples of social engineering attacks.

Table 1.
Examples of social engineering techniques
Asking for Favors (Lively Jr., 2003)
Dumpster Diving
Cold Calling
Contriving Situations (Silltow, 2001)
Giving out free software
Impersonation
Photography
Pharming
Phishing
Pretexting
Reverse Social Engineering
Reconnaissance
Shoulder Surfing
Simple Requests
Surveys
Tailgating
Theft
Trojan Horses

Key Terms in this Chapter

Phishing: Using fraudulent emails to direct users to websites that mimic valid websites in order to obtain private information.

Penetration Testing: Use of active hacking techniques to test the effectiveness of information security controls.

Proximity: The closeness of parties to a communication.

Synchronicity: The turn-taking nature of communications. Synchronous communication requires immediate feedback while asynchronous communication allows time to pass between turns.

Targeting: The extensiveness of the pool of potential targets in social engineering attacks.

Social engineering: The exploitation of psychological triggers and cognitive biases as a means to gain unauthorized access to information or information systems.

Modality: The type of media used to communicate during a social engineering attack.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset
Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Foreword
John Walp
Preface
Manish Gupta, Raj Sharman
Chapter 1
C. Warren Axelrod
This chapter examines the impact of catastrophes on information security and suggests who might have responsibility for maintaining an appropriate... Sample PDF
Responsibilities and Liabilities with Respect to Catastrophes
$37.50
Chapter 2
David Porter
This chapter discusses the latest developments in the shifting threat landscape and their impact on the world of information security. It describes... Sample PDF
The Complex New World of Information Security
$37.50
Chapter 3
Ahmed Awad E. Ahmed
In recent years, many studies have highlighted the unprecedented growth in security threats from multiple and varied sources faced by corporate, as... Sample PDF
Employee Surveillance Based on Free Text Detection of Keystroke Dynamics
$37.50
Chapter 4
Arunabha Mukhopadhyay, Samir Chatterjee, Debashis Saha, Ambuj Mahanti, Samir K. Sadhukhan
An online business organization spends millions of dollars on firewalls, anti-virus, intrusion detection systems, digital signature, and encryption... Sample PDF
E-Risk Insurance Product Design: A Copula Based Bayesian Belief Network Model
$37.50
Chapter 5
Guoling Lao
E-commerce mode aggravates information asymmetry so that honesty-credit problems become more serious. This chapter discusses the honesty-credit... Sample PDF
E-Commerce Security and Honesty-Credit
$37.50
Chapter 6
Zhixiong Zhang, Xinwen Zhang, Ravi Sandhu
This chapter addresses the problem that traditional role-base access control (RBAC) models do not scale up well for modeling security policies... Sample PDF
Towards a Scalable Role and Organization Based Access Control Model with Decentralized Security Administration
$37.50
Chapter 7
Chandan Mazumdar
There has been an unprecedented thrust in employing Computers and Communication technologies in all walks of life. The systems enabled by... Sample PDF
Enterprise Information System Security: A Life-Cycle Approach
$37.50
Chapter 8
Peter O. Orondo
Most companies would agree that securing their information assets is worth some investment. It is thus plausible to assume that low levels of IT... Sample PDF
An Alternative Model of Information Security Investment
$37.50
Chapter 9
George O.M. Yee
The growth of the Internet is increasing the deployment of e-services in such areas as e-commerce, e-learning, and e-health. In parallel, the... Sample PDF
Avoiding Pitfalls in Policy-Based Privacy Management
$37.50
Chapter 10
Supriya Singh
Enabling customers to influence the way they are represented in the bank’s databases, is one of the major personalization, responsiveness, and... Sample PDF
Privacy and Banking in Australia
$37.50
Chapter 11
Madhusudhanan Chandrasekaran, Shambhu Upadhyaya
Phishing scams pose a serious threat to end-users and commercial institutions alike. E-mail continues to be the favorite vehicle to perpetrate such... Sample PDF
A Multistage Framework to Defend Against Phishing Attacks
$37.50
Chapter 12
Ghita Kouadri Mostefaoui, Patrick Brézillon
In recent years, the security research community has been very active in proposing different techniques and algorithms to face the proliferating... Sample PDF
A New Approach to Reducing Social Engineering Impact
$37.50
Chapter 13
Yang Wang
Privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs), which constitute a wide array of technical means for protecting users’ privacy, have gained considerable... Sample PDF
Privacy-Enhancing Technologies
$37.50
Chapter 14
Douglas P. Twitchell
This chapter introduces and defines social engineering, a recognized threat to the security of information systems. It also introduces a taxonomy... Sample PDF
Social Engineering and its Countermeasures
$37.50
Chapter 15
Tom S. Chan
Social networking has become one of the most popular applications on the Internet since the burst of the dot-com bubble. Apart from being a haven... Sample PDF
Social Networking Site: Opportunities and Security Challenges
$37.50
Chapter 16
James W. Ragucci, Stefan A. Robila
Fraudulent e-mails, known as phishing attacks, have brought chaos across the digital world causing billions of dollars of damage. These attacks are... Sample PDF
Designing Antiphishing Education
$37.50
Chapter 17
Serkan Ada
This chapter discusses the recent theories used in information security research studies. The chapter initially introduces the importance of the... Sample PDF
Theories Used in Information Security Research: Survey and Agenda
$37.50
Chapter 18
Samuel Liles
Information assurance education is an interdisciplinary endeavor that only when taken as a holistic and inclusive educational activity can be... Sample PDF
Information Assurance and Security Curriculum Meeting the SIGITE Guidelines
$37.50
Chapter 19
Gary Hinson
This chapter highlights the broad range of factors that are relevant to the design of information security awareness programs, primarily by... Sample PDF
Information Security Awareness
$37.50
Chapter 20
Nick Pullman, Kevin Streff
Security training and awareness is often overlooked or not given sufficient focus in many organizations despite being a critical component of a... Sample PDF
Creating a Security Education, Training, and Awareness Program
$37.50
Chapter 21
E. Kritzinger, S.H von Solms
This chapter introduces information security within the educational environments that utilize electronic resources. The education environment... Sample PDF
Information Security Within an E-Learning Environment
$37.50
Chapter 22
Donald Murphy, Manish Gupta, H.R. Rao
We present five emerging areas in information security that are poised to bring the radical benefits to the information security practice and... Sample PDF
Research Notes on Emerging Areas of Conflict in Security
$37.50
Chapter 23
C. Orhan Orgun
This chapter develops a linguistically robust encryption system, LunabeL, which converts a message into syntactically and semantically innocuous... Sample PDF
The Human Attack in Linguistic Steganography
$37.50
Chapter 24
Sérgio Tenreiro de Magalhães, Kenneth Revett, Henrique M.D. Santos, Leonel Duarte dos Santos, André Oliveira, César Ariza
The traditional approach to security has been the use of passwords. They provide the system with a barrier to access what was quite safe in the... Sample PDF
Using Technology to Overcome the Password's Contradiction
$37.50
Chapter 25
Antonio Cerone
Reducing the likelihood of human error in the use of interactive systems is increasingly important. Human errors could not only hinder the correct... Sample PDF
Formal Analysis of Security in Interactive Systems
$37.50
Chapter 26
Tejaswini Herath
It is estimated that over 1 billion people now have access to the Internet. This unprecedented access and use of Internet by individuals around the... Sample PDF
Internet Crime: How Vulnerable Are You? Do Gender, Social Influence and Education play a Role in Vulnerability?
$37.50
Chapter 27
Jarrod Trevathan
Shill bidding is where spurious bids are introduced into an auction to drive up the final price for the seller, thereby defrauding legitimate... Sample PDF
Detecting Shill Bidding in Online English Auctions
$37.50
Chapter 28
Carsten Röcker, Carsten Magerkurth, Steve Hinske
In this chapter we present a novel concept for personalized privacy support on large public displays. In the first step, two formative evaluations... Sample PDF
Information Security at Large Public Displays
$37.50
Chapter 29
Yuko Murayama, Carl Hauser, Natsuko Hikage, Basabi Chakraborty
The sense of security, identified with the Japanese term, Anshin, is identified as an important contributor to emotional trust. This viewpoint... Sample PDF
The Sense of Security and Trust
$37.50
About the Contributors