The Security Detail

May 30 2011   8:16AM GMT

How to Recognize a Social Engineering Attack

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

The rogue AV scareware attacks against Mac OS X, and the disclosure of a ‘cookiejacking’ attack that could compromised sensitive account credentials both have one thing in common–social engineering.

These attacks generally have a technical element as well. The latest variants of the Mac scareware take advantage of a setting in Safari to automatically open “safe” files, and the ‘cookiejacking’ attack uses a weakness in the security zones protection of Internet Explorer. But, technical component aside, these attacks rely on somehow convincing the user to do something through social engineering.

A post on the Windows Security Blog focused on the ‘cookiejacking’ attack explains, “This is a form of social engineering attack and these kinds of threats will remain a concern for Internet users on all browsers. Software vulnerabilities are not needed for these kinds of threats to be successful so it is always a good idea to follow best practices – regardless of the browser you are using – in order to stay safe.”

The post offers six simple tips you can use to identify social engineering attacks, and avoid becoming a victim.

  1. Odd messages from friends on social networking sites to participate in games or offers you must act upon immediately.
  2. Alarmist messages and threats of account closures.
  3. Promises of money for little or no effort.
  4. Deals that sound too good to be true.
  5. Requests to donate to a charitable organization after a disaster that has been in the news.
  6. Bad grammar and misspellings.

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