Social engineering is the art of manipulating individuals so that they give up private and confidential information. People seeking this information can vary but when they target individuals, they are usually trying to trick them into giving your password or bank details, or access to the computer to install software that will give access to the bank information or passwords and control over your system. 

Criminals use tactics of social engineering as it is easy to exploit your natural inclination to trust them instead of looking for ways to hack the software. This is why security is important. It is about knowing whom to trust and what to trust. You should know when not to take a person at their word and who you are communicating with. 

What does social engineering look like?

There are times when a criminal will not directly ask you for the details. It could come in the form of an email from a friend. Someone might hack one person’s email password and use their contact list. They will send emails to everyone on the contacts or leave messages on their friend’s social pages. The email could contain a link that you just have to check out and since it comes from a friend, you will be curious to click it. This link could be infected with malware so the criminal will take over your machine and gather all the information.

The email could also contain a download of music, movies, or images that is embedded with malicious software. If you download it, your system will become infected. This will give the criminal access to your machine and they will take over the email account, contacts, social media accounts and go on spreading the virus. 

You might also get emails from people that look trustworthy. They could have a compelling story or pretext asking for your help. Such stories can be easily created and they use phishing attempts with a strong background. It could come from a popular company, bank, institution, or charitable fundraiser. They could ask for aid for a disaster or money for a political campaign. Some people also receive emails notifying them as a winner of a lottery and to get the winnings, you need to share information about the bank so they get access to your confidential information. 

Ways to prevent such a situation from arising 

Here are a few ways you can avoid such a situation from arising.

  1. Slow down: All spammers take advantage of your impatience. They will want you to act first and then think. When you see a message that conveys a sense of urgency or has high sales tactics, you will end up clicking on the link. Do not let their urgency impact your decisions. 
  1. Research: Before you react to the email or a message, you need to be suspicious of any unsolicited messages. If you feel that the email looks unfamiliar, use the search engine or head to the website of the sender. 
  1. Do not trust any links: You should stay in control by looking at the website yourself through a search engine. This will help ensure that you do not land at the wrong places. When you hover over links in the email, it will show the actual URL at the bottom but you still need to be careful as a good criminal can still steer you in the wrong manner. A lot of domain buy service providers warn users from opening links that look suspicious. 
  1. Do not download: When you do not know the sender personally and receive a file from them, do not download anything. 
  1. Reject requests for help: Genuine companies will not contact you to ask for help. If you did not request assistance from the sender, any request to help with your credit score or a loan is a scam. Do not open such emails and never click on the links sent by them.
  1. Set the spam filters to high: All email programs have spam filters. If you want to find yours, you need to look at the settings options and set them to high. But remember to check the spam folder from time to time to see if any legitimate email has been trapped there by mistake. 
  1. Secure your devices: Remember to install anti-virus software, email filters, firewalls and always keep them updated. You can do this by setting up the operating system to automatically update. If the system does not update automatically, you can do so manually. You can also use an anti-phishing tool to alert you in case of risks.  

Whether you have a personal email or business email, do not make the mistake of opening anything that does not look legitimate. Never click on links that look dicey and remember to secure the device. Follow these tips to prevent being a victim of social engineering and keep your information safe.