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Social Engineering in Practice

Social engineering remains one of the most potent yet underestimated cybersecurity threats. It’s not about complex coding or sophisticated hacking techniques; instead, it preys on human psychology, exploiting trust and manipulating individuals to divulge sensitive information or perform actions that compromise security.

Types of Social Engineering Attacks

Phishing Attacks

Phishing is among the most common social engineering techniques. Attackers send deceptive emails or messages, often mimicking legitimate sources, to trick recipients into revealing confidential information like passwords or financial data.


In pretexting, perpetrators create a fabricated scenario to gain someone’s trust and extract information. This might involve impersonating authority figures, co-workers, or IT personnel to elicit sensitive details.


Baiting involves tempting victims with something enticing—a free software download, for instance—to lure them into providing login credentials or installing malware.


This physical form of social engineering involves unauthorized individuals gaining entry to restricted areas by following authorized personnel.

Real-World Examples of Social Engineering

The Twitter Bitcoin Scam

In a high-profile incident, hackers gained access to several prominent Twitter accounts, including those of Elon Musk and Barack Obama, to promote a Bitcoin scam. They manipulated employees through social engineering tactics, resulting in a significant breach.

Target’s Data Breach

Target’s massive data breach in 2013 stemmed from a social engineering attack. Cybercriminals accessed the retailer’s network by compromising a third-party HVAC vendor, highlighting how indirect methods can lead to substantial breaches.

Mitigating Social Engineering Risks

Employee Training and Awareness

Regular training programs can empower employees to recognize and respond effectively to social engineering attempts. Simulated phishing exercises can also raise awareness and help identify vulnerable areas.

Robust Security Protocols

Implementing multifactor authentication, encryption, and access controls strengthens security layers, making it more challenging for attackers to exploit human vulnerabilities.

Continuous Assessment and Adaptation

Cyber threats evolve rapidly. Regularly reassessing security protocols and staying updated on emerging social engineering tactics is crucial to stay ahead of potential attacks