Conference PaperPDF Available



Abstract and Figures

As the digital era matures, cyber security evolves and software vulnerabilities diminish, people however, as individuals, are more exposed today than ever before. Presently, one of the most practiced and effective penetration attacks are social rather than technical, so efficient in fact, that these exploits play a crucial role to support the greatest majority of cyber assaults. Social Engineering is the art of exploiting the human flaws to achieve a malicious objective. In the context of information security, practitioners breach defences to access sensitive data preying particularly upon the human tendency towards trust. Cyber criminals induce their victims to break security protocol forfeiting confidential information propitious for a more targeted attack. Disastrously, in many cases, targets are manipulated to involuntarily infect and sabotage the system themselves. This paper examines recurrent social engineering techniques used by attackers, as well as revealing a basic complementary technical methodology to conduct effective exploits.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Breda F.1, Barbosa H.1, Morais T.2
1Universidade Lusófona do Porto (PORTUGAL)
2Faculdade de Engenharia do Porto (PORTUGAL)
As the digital era matures, cyber security evolves and software vulnerabilities diminish, people
however, as individuals, are more exposed today than ever before. Presently, one of the most
practiced and effective penetration attacks are social rather than technical, so efficient in fact, that
these exploits play a crucial role to support the greatest majority of cyber assaults. Social Engineering
is the art of exploiting the human flaws to achieve a malicious objective. In the context of information
security, practitioners breach defences to access sensitive data preying particularly upon the human
tendency towards trust. Cyber criminals induce their victims to break security protocol forfeiting
confidential information propitious for a more targeted attack. Disastrously, in many cases, targets are
manipulated to involuntarily infect and sabotage the system themselves. This paper examines
recurrent social engineering techniques used by attackers, as well as revealing a basic
complementary technical methodology to conduct effective exploits.
Keywords: Information security, social engineering, cyber security, cyber attack, hacking, Kali Linux,
social engineer toolkit.
As civilization evolves to grow increasingly connected through the inevitable ubiquity of technology,
securing systems, networks and data on which we rely on has become paramount. Cybercrime is a
major threat for economics, individual safety and even the public in general, as it is a primary medium
for terrorism. [1] In fact, the 2016 Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment by Europol, reports an
increasing acceleration of cyber criminality to such a level, that for some EU countries, it has
surpassed traditional crime. Assisting a growing range of threats, from human trafficking to terrorism.
[2] Corroborating the cyber menace, on July 14 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Director, James Comey, testified before the House Committee on Homeland Security, that nearly all
major threats the organization encounters are cyber facilitated: "Virtually every national security and
criminal threat the FBI faces is cyber-enabled in some way. We face sophisticated cyber threats from
foreign intelligence agencies, hackers for hire, organized crime syndicates, and terrorists". [3]
As the digital era thrives and the on-line universe becomes progressively indistinguishable from real
life, cybercrime grows to become a part of everyone's daily lives.
Attacks towards businesses and nations have become so unrelenting that society is incapable of
responding to the sheer volume and acceleration of these cyber threats. [4] According to a study by
the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research, cybercrime costs the global economy up to
approximately 540 billion euros annually. Concluding that in a worst case "Cybergeddon" scenario,
cybercrime could potentially extract a fifth of the value created by the Internet. [5] Cyber security
incidents continue to grow exponentially, both in frequency and damage, unfortunately users and
organizations have not yet adequately deployed defences to discourage the criminal intent to strike. [6]
In November and December 2015, ISACA1 and RSA22 Conference have conducted a global survey of
four hundred and sixty one cyber security managers and practitioners. The survey participants have
confirmed that the number of security breaches targeting individual and organizational data continues
to go unchecked, and that attack methodologies are evolving to become increasingly sophisticated. [7]
The current state of global cyber security stands chaotic, the frequency of attacks is not expected to
decrease, and almost seventy five percent of respondents expect to fall prey to a cyber attack in 2016.
1 An independent, nonprofit, global association formerly known by Information Systems Audit and Control Association, now
ISACA goes by its acronym only.
2 A computer and network security company. RSA was named after the initials of its co-founders, Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and
Len Adleman, after whom the RSA public key cryptography algorithm was also named.
The most prevalent attackers are astute criminals that continue to employ social engineering as their
primary initial attack vector. [7] Attackers have shifted away from automated exploits and instead,
have engaged on human flaws. Inducing victims to, negligently, create vulnerabilities by infecting
systems, stealing credentials and transferring funds. Across all vectors, threat actors used social
engineering to manipulate people into doing the work that once depended on malicious code. [8]
As a young fugitive, the world's most famous hacker, Kevin Mitnick, was incarcerated for breaching
and exploiting computer networks, mostly by using his cunning and persuasion rather than his
technical skills. The notorious hacker, considered to be an early master of the science of social
engineering, proclaims that no matter how protected any security system is, every person involved is
the greatest vulnerability. [9]
Engebretson defines social engineering as one of the simplest methods to gather information about a
target through the process of exploiting human weakness that is inherit to every organization. [6] In
essence, social engineering refers to the design and application of deceitful techniques to deliberately
manipulate human targets. In a cyber security context, it is primarily used to induce victims towards
disclosing confidential data, or to perform actions that breach security protocols, unknowingly infecting
systems or releasing classified information. [10] The basis of a social engineering attack is to avoid
cyber security systems through deceit, exploiting the weakest link, the people involved. [11]
Throughout the interaction, victims are unaware of the destructive nature of their actions. The social
engineer exploits innocent instincts, not criminal. Explicit methods such as threats or bribery do not fall
within the scope of social engineering. [10] A talented practitioner of this discipline understands and
perceives social interaction patterns to manipulate the psychological aspects of the human mind. With
this resolution, the attacker is capable of executing an efficient and cheap security compromise,
without the need to invest in breaking technical security measures. Nevertheless, an educated social
engineer on computer science may also complement technological means to the attack in order to
accomplish the malicious intentions. [12]
2.1 Categories
A social engineering attack can be classified by one of two possible categories, hunting and
2.1.1 Hunting
This approach seeks to execute the social engineering attack through minimal interaction with the
target. Once the specified objective is achieved and the security breach is established, communication
is likely to be terminated. This is the most frequently used methodology to support cyber attacks and
as a rule, the modus operandi involves a single encounter. [10]
2.1.2 Farming
Social engineering farming is not often practiced, nevertheless this technique may be used for
situational purposes. The attacker aims to establish a relationship with the victim in order to extract
information for a longer period of time. Throughout the process, the interaction can change, the target
may learn the truth and the social engineer may attempt to bribe or blackmail the target, thus resorting
to traditional criminal behaviour. [10]
2.2 Phases
In order to achieve a specified objective, social engineering attacks can range from a single encounter
to a series of operations, possibly involving several threat actors, intended to gather fragments of
related information from different sources. Attacks of this nature, even if dependent on a sole
interaction, typically consist of four distinct phases: research, hook, play and exit. [10][13]
2.2.1 Research
Regularly, the operation initiates with the phase of reconnaissance, studying and gathering as much
information as possible about the people and business model associated with the target. A well known
sentence from Sun Tzu in The Art of War is: "Know your enemy", knowledge is power and in the
context of cyber security, the investment on this stage can be invaluable to unveil possible
vulnerabilities. [14] Nevertheless, rather than executing a targeted attack, an experienced social
engineering is capable of exploiting chance encounters, and thus opening further opportunities with no
research prior to that point. [10]
2.2.2 Hook
In this phase, the threat actor initiates the communication with the potential victim. [13] He engages
the target, spins the story, builds a level of intimacy and takes control of the interaction. [10]
2.2.3 Play
The play aims to accomplish the purpose of the attack, which can be to extract information or to
manipulate the target in order to compromise the system. [10][13]
2.2.4 Exit
Lastly, the social engineering finalizes the interaction with the victim, preferably without arousing any
suspicions. After this last phase, the attacker is typically very difficult to track down. [10][13]
2.3 Attack Spiral Model
This model indicates that as the process develops, the risks, although present throughout the entire
operation, increase both to the target and threat actor. Consequently, so does the complexity of the
attack, social engineers often have a comprehensive consideration of risk assessment throughout
each phase. [15]
An attack vector is a path or means by which the attacker can gain access to exploit system
vulnerabilities, including the human element.
3.1 Social Approach
The attack vectors in social approach can be arise through different acts, tailgating, impersonating,
eavesdropping, shoulder surfing, dumpster diving, reverse social engineering and others.
3.1.1 Tailgating
Tailgating is the act of following an oblivious human target with legitimate access through a secure
door into a restricted space. The attacker may ask the victim to hold the door, or can simply reach for
it and enter before it closes. [11][16] Considering that in the recent past, safety and health regulations
prohibit smoking in company premises, this is an increasingly e effective technique as it provides
opportunities for social engineering to tailgate groups of smokers. [12]
3.1.2 Impersonating
As the name implies, the threat actor assumes a false identity to gain credibility as a basis to carry out
following malicious actions, like piggybacking, pretexting and quid pro quo. [13][16]
Piggybacking, similarly to tailgating, the attacker aims to gain physical entry to secured areas. In this
case however, acquires permission from the person with legitimate access by impersonating business
entities, like personnel that require temporary admittance. [6][13]
Pretexting, the core of this attack is the fabrication of a plausible scenario propitious to engage the
targeted victim. Impersonating an authority figure or a trustworthy entity, the attacker attempts to
breach security protocol and gain access to credentials and personal information. [6] This method
requires a credible story to prevent arousing suspicion, and thus conducting research on the target is
absolutely necessary. [11][17]
Quid pro quo, in the context of social engineering and cyber security, this attack is commonly
presented to the target as a fake technical service that conveniently requires sensitive information to
be successful. The attacker, impersonating as an IT33 support technician, aims to infect a targeted
system by offering assistance to a victim experiencing technical difficulties. [6]
3 Information Technology
3.1.3 Eavesdropping
Within a company, the personnel may simply discuss classified matters out loud if expecting only
authorized employees to be present. Just for being at the right place at the right time, threat actors can
exploit security breaches of this nature. Nevertheless, attackers can also pro-actively listen to
communicating channels such as e-mails and telephone lines. [12][13]
3.1.4 Shoulder surfing
Refers to the act of direct observation by surfing over the victim's shoulder to collect personal
information, typically used for extracting authentication data. [11][12][18]
3.1.5 Dumpster diving
A classical practice for acquiring sensitive information among attackers is to simply look for it through
the garbage. Often, individuals and organizations, do not adequately dispose of documents, papers
and even hardware from which can be retrieved confidential data. [12][13][18]
3.1.6 Reverse social engineering
The threat actor entices the target to be the one to initiate the interaction and lies in wait, reducing the
risk of arousing any suspicions. The attacker creates and plays a persona that appears to be trusted,
fabricates a problem for the victim and, indirectly, presents a viable solution. [12][13][18]
3.1.7 A Recurrent Social Attack Example
In 2015, astute cyber criminals used vicious social engineering tactics to ruthlessly attack and bypass
two-factor authentication systems. By exploiting the public trust in a credible entity, one attack was
notably successful, the Gmail scam. [4]
A recurrent social attack example in six steps. First step, an attacker extracts the target's email
address and phone number through research, often with ease. Second step, the threat actor initiates
the attack by sending a message to the potential victim via SMS44, equivalent to: "Google has
detected unusual activity on your account. Please respond with the code sent to your mobile device to
stop unauthorized activity." Third step, the attacker, impersonating the victim, requests a legitimate
password reset from Google. Fourth step, Google sends the password reset verification code to the
actual victim. Fifth step, the victim, expecting the message from Google, follows the previous
instructions and forwards the code to the attacker. Sixth step, with the code, freely given by the victim,
the atacker simply resets the password and gains complete access to the account. After
accomplishing the purpose of the attack, simply informs the victim of the new temporary password,
terminating contact without arousing any suspicions.
3.2 Socio-Technical Approach
The social-technical approach can be arise through different situations, phishing, baiting, watering
hole and others.
3.2.1 Phishing
Phishing attacks attempt to extract personal identifiable information through digital means, such as
malicious emails that appear to be from legitimate sources and counterfeit websites. [19][20] More
sophisticated scams of this nature tend to account for psychological vulnerabilities in order to
manipulate victims, creating a sense of urgency in a way that challenges good judgment. [6] Phishing
attacks target the masses striving to reach as many victims as possible. [16][17]
Spear-phishing, this technique, on the other hand, is the highly targeted counterpart. A spear-phishing
attack can only be executed after initial research, and the content of the message is at least tailored to
some extent for the individual target. Social networking sites can be used by cyber criminals to mine
data on potential victims, extracting information to create extremely customized messages that would
appear to be sent by close friends. [16][18]
4 Short Message Service
3.2.2 Baiting
The attacker can use this physical attack vector by infecting a storage medium with malware, leaving it
to be found by the targeted victim, who may naively plug it into the system. [17][18]
3.2.3 Watering hole
This is one of the most advanced social engineering attack vectors, as it requires substantial technical
knowledge. After researching, the attacker identifies one or more legitimate websites regularly visited
by the target. Searches for vulnerabilities, infects the most propitious website for the attack and lies in
wait. [16][20]
3.2.4 A Socio-Technical Attack Example
This section will reveal the detailed methodology of a technical attack by describing the execution of a
simple example. For this, it will be used the Social Engineer Toolkit that comes pre-installed in Kali
Linux (Fig. 1).
Figure 1 - A few exploitation tools including the Social-Engineer Toolkit
Kali is a Debian Linux based operating system for penetration testing purposes, providing an arsenal
of tools designed for analysing and exploiting system vulnerabilities. Funded and maintained by
Offensive Security, Kali Linux is a renowned open source project used by cyber security professionals
and enthusiasts. [14][22]
The Social-Engineer Toolkit (SET), with over two million downloads is heavily supported within the
cyber security community. Created by the founder of TrustedSec as an open source, menu driven,
penetration testing tool, SET is now the standard framework for assisting advanced technological
attacks in social engineering environments. To initiate the execution in Kali Linux all that is necessary,
is to simply type "setoolkit" on the terminal, also accessible through the applications menu. [13][23]
Once the software executes, users are presented with a simple main menu that provides six options,
and another one to exit the program (Fig.2). Given the subject of this paper, this attack demonstration
is naturally focused on the first option, social engineering attacks. This attack example is a
rudimentary phishing attempt of the website vector nature, and thus, in the social engineering attacks
menu that follows, “Website Attack Vectors” is selected (Fig. 3).
Figure 2: Social-Engineer Toolkit Menu Figure 3: Social-Engineering Attacks Menu
The attacker intends to harvest credentials from a victim and to do this, simply continues to follow the
instructions provided by the Social-Engineer Toolkit. In this case, by selecting from the website attack
vectors menu, the third option, the “Credential Harvester Attack Method” (Fig. 4). At last, the desired
exploit attempt is presented on this following menu, the procedure number two (Fig. 5).
Figure 4: Website Attack Vectors Menu Figure 5: Credential Harvester Attack Method Menu
This attack method is capable of creating a malicious clone from a web platform, attempting to harvest
credentials from a targeted victim. To execute this exploit, the attacker is required to introduce the IP55
address of the machine operated for the attack, in this case the Kali Linux (, and the URL66
of the website to be cloned, which, for this demonstration, is a well known social network website,
Facebook (Fig. 6).
Figure 6: Credential Harvester Attack Method Menu
5 Internet Protocol
6 Uniform Resource Locator
Finally, the attacker transfers to the target a fraudulent link, redirecting to the cloned web platform Fig.
7). By applying social engineering techniques, induces the victim to commit the mistake of submitting
the targeted credentials. Once the victim visits the link and enters the username and password, the
login credentials are redirected to the Kali Linux server (Fig. 8). [13][14]
Figure 7: Cloned Facebook page
Figure 8: Victim's credentials on the terminal
The Information Age is maturing, complemented by an extremely increased usage of the Internet;
humanity evolves rapidly as the growth of public accessible knowledge has been greatly nurtured and
facilitated. Consequently, an unmistakable dependence on the World Wide Web has been established
in civilization. The digital realm, as a propitious infrastructure for a grand variety of criminal offenses,
has grown with the society needs to become an increasingly protected environment. Cyber security
develops to grow in sophistication but individuals however, are currently more exposed than ever
before. At present, cybercrime is practiced by threat actors that do not necessarily possess a very
substantial technical knowledge on information systems, they exploit the human vulnerabilities. Recent
studies have shown that people are at the core of the infection chain in the greatest majority of cyber
attacks. Social engineering is increasing both in sophistication and ruthless efficiency, because
people, make the best exploits. As such, facts point to the conclusion that in the foreseeable future,
social engineering will be the most predominant attack vector within cyber security, and thus deserve
to be studied further as it evolves in order to advise good practices and measures for individuals and
[1] Wenke Lee, Bo Rotoloni, “Emerging cyber threats, trends and technologies”, Technical report,
Institute for Information Security and Privacy, 2016.
[2] “Internet organized crime threat assessment”, Technical report, Europol, 2016.
[3] James Comey, “Worldwide threats to the homeland: ISIS and the new wave of terror, statement
before the house committee on homeland security”, FBI, July 2016.
[4] “Internet security threat report”, Technical report, vol. 21, Symantec, April 2016.
[5] Nahal Sarbjit, Ma Beijia, Tran Felix, “Global cybersecurity primer”, Technical report, Bank of
America Merrill Lynch, 2015.
[6] Nabie Y Conteh, Paul J Schmick, “Cybersecurity: risks, vulnerabilities and countermeasures to
prevent social engineering attacks”, International Journal of Advanced Computer Research,
Vol.6 pp.23-31, 2016.
[7] “State of cyber security implications for 2016”, Technical report, ISACA and RSA, 2016.
[8] “The human factor”, Technical report, Proofpoint, 2016.
[9] Kevin D Mitnick, William L Simon, “The art of deception: Controlling the human element of
security”, John Wiley & Sons, 2011.
[10] “Hacking the human operating system: The role of social engineering within cybersecurity”,
Technical report, Intel Security, 2015.
[11] Prashant Kumar Dey, “Prashant's algorithm for password management system”, International
Journal of Engineering Science, pp.2424, 2016.
[12] Seppo Heikkinen, Social engineering in the world of emerging communication technologies”,
Proceedings of Wireless World Research Forum, pp. 1-10, 2006.
[13] Rahul Singh Patel, “Kali Linux Social Engineering”, Packt Publishing Ltd, 2013.
[14] Joseph Muniz, “Web Penetration Testing with Kali Linux”, Packt Publishing Ltd, 2013.
[15] Andrea Cullen, Lorna Armitage, “The social engineering attack spiral (seas). In Cyber Security
And Protection Of Digital Services (Cyber Security)”, 2016 International Conference On, pp.1-6,
IEEE, 2016.
[16] Mika Kontio et al, “Social engineering”, pp.101, 2016.
[17] “Social engineering fraud: questions and answers”, Technical report, Interpol, December 2015.
[18] Katharina Krombholz, Heidelinde Hobel, Markus Huber, Edgar Weippl, “Advanced social
engineering attacks”, Journal of Information Security and applications, Vol.22, pp.113-122,
[19] E Rutger Leukfeldt, Edward R Kleemans, Wouter P Stol, Cybercriminal networks, social ties
and online forums: Social ties versus digital ties within phishing and malware networks”, British
Journal of Criminology, pp. azw009, 2016.
[20] Nalin Asanka Gamagedara Arachchilage, Steve Love, Konstantin Beznosov, “Phishing threat
avoidance behaviour: An empirical investigation”, Computers in Human Behavior, Vol.60,
pp.185-197, 2016.
[21] Parker Graeme, Shala Vlerar, “Social engineering and risk from cyber-attacks”, Technical
report, PECB, March 2016.
[22] “Kali Linux”, [Online; accessed on December 21 2016].
[23] “Social-engineer toolkit”, [Online; accessed on December 21
... Breda, Barbosa, and Morais describe social engineering using the Kali Linux operating system. They have demonstrated their experiment through SET (Social-Engineer Toolkit) that comes installed with Kali Linux [3]. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
In this era of the internet, almost everyone is always under the threat of any kind of cyberattack by knowing or unknowingly. Even the most aware person about cyber security may become a victim anytime just for a second's mistake. This paper aims to study the relation between these two phenomena, i.e., awareness and being a victim of an attack. In order to study this social engineering was chosen to observe from the perspective of Bangladesh. Data was collected through a survey and later a coefficient between these two factors was calculated. Our research revealed that there is a very minimal coefficient between these two factors which again proves that even a cyber-attack-aware person can be the victim of any kind of cyber-attack anytime.
... Psychological tricks are often employed by social engineers to coerce the user into submission to things they would not normally agree to [18]. Breda et al. [19], describe social engineering into two forms: (i) hunting, in which the social engineer's interaction with the victims is limited and communication ends immediately after achieving the goal; and (ii) farming, in which the attacker intends to form a relationship with the victim in order to gather information for an extended period of time. Smishing uses hunting more frequently, such that attackers broadcast SMS within the network and wait for a user response with no contact maintained afterwards. ...
Full-text available
Due to the massive adoption of mobile money in Sub-Saharan countries, the global transaction value of mobile money exceeded $2 billion in 2021. Projections show transaction values will exceed $3 billion by the end of 2022, and Sub-Saharan Africa contributes half of the daily transactions. SMS (Short Message Service) phishing cost corporations and individuals millions of dollars annually. Spammers use Smishing (SMS Phishing) messages to trick a mobile money user into sending electronic cash to an unintended mobile wallet. Though Smishing is an incarnation of phishing, they differ in the information available and attack strategy. As a result, detecting Smishing becomes difficult. Numerous models and techniques to detect Smishing attacks have been introduced for high-resource languages, yet few target low-resource languages such as Swahili. This study proposes a machine-learning based model to classify Swahili Smishing text messages targeting mobile money users. Experimental results show a hybrid model of Extratree classifier feature selection and Random Forest using TFIDF (Term Frequency Inverse Document Frequency) vectorization yields the best model with an accuracy score of 99.86%. Results are measured against a baseline Multinomial Naïve-Bayes model. In addition, comparison with a set of other classic classifiers is also done. The model returns the lowest false positive and false negative of 2 and 4, respectively, with a Log-Loss of 0.04. A Swahili dataset with 32259 messages is used for performance evaluation.
... Given the modus operandi of cyber attackers as illustrated in literature, this paper identified social engineering (which is about manipulating the users and tricking them) as the most common tool of cybercriminals amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In the word of Engebretson, social engineering becomes one of the simplest techniques to worm out information from the target user through the process of exploiting human weakness [22]. On this note, Cybercriminals are devising their means to hack into the user"s systems. ...
Full-text available
Shortly after the enthronement of COVID-19 on the global continent, cyberspace became a dominant arena for social, economic, religious, educational, recreational and political activities across the world. This paper draws insights from the existing literature to illustrate how COVID-19 has provided situational opportunities for cyber criminals to strike and exploit people of their valuable resources through creating fraudulent websites as well as spreading of malware and ransomware to vulnerable users. To this end, routine activity theory becomes very dominant and crucial in understanding the underlying basis for the increased cybercrimes that currently characterize the cyber space. The study demonstrates that the twin phenomenon of coronavirus and cyber insecurity has not only instilled fears into the hearts of cyber users but has also negatively impacted the global economy in various ways that cannot be quantified by any study. Since all measures put in place to contain the threats of the horrible virus, have, hitherto, remained counterproductive, the paper recommends essential cyber hygiene practices (such as, antivirus protection, malware and phishing awareness, weak spots identification, intelligent techniques, risk management approach, zero trust design, home network security and general cybersecurity awareness) as a coping strategy to salvage both the public health and security sectors from the twin occurrence of Covid-19 pandemic and cyber insecurity, which has respectively inflicted and claimed millions of lives, and jeopardized significant portions of the global economy. Providing a continued cyber-safe remote-working environment for employees will be of ultimate measure
The security of personal data is crucial for a company or any individual. Phishing is one of the most common and dangerous cybercrime attacks. These attacks aim to steal information used by individuals and organizations using social engineering, which is a key point for the success of the phishing attack. Even though there are several systems and solutions, the amount of personal information stolen continues to increase as cyberattacks become more difficult to detect. This paper consists of a broad review to study the work carried out in the fight against phishing and the identification of vulnerabilities in existing systems to achieve better efficiency. The authors focused on the social medium Twitter to study the phishing attacks passing through this medium, and they present their new design, which is based on new features. The classification of the approach includes 23 features and uses the MLP artificial neural network (ANN MLP) algorithm. Experiments show that the system is effective at detecting phishing sites, with a 96% success rate using recent data.
Full-text available
The pervasive use of social media in small and medium enterprises has increased social engineering cyber-attacks. Enterprises that have adopted the use of social media and emails to supplement on their marketing to complete business deals have been attacked or have detected attempted attacks on their infrastructure. Others are still trapped in the social engineering racket. In this paper we identify the dynamic pattern and behavior of social engineering both from within and without the business enterprises. We used analytical method to identify the key factors and parameters that cause social engineering attacks in businesses .Causal loops are used to model the relationships of key parameters that contribute to cyber-attacks through social engineering through the patterns and behavior of social media users. Using stock and flow diagrams, we build a simulation model on Stella platform, analyze it and suggest possible solutions that business enterprises can take to implement measures through policy change.
Modern cars host numerous special-purpose computing and connectivity devices facilitating the correct functioning of various in-vehicle systems. These devices host complex software systems with over 100-million lines of code, requiring regular and timely updates for functional and security improvements. Addressing the shortcomings of the legacy update system, over-the-air (OTA) software update system has emerged as an efficient, cost-effective, and convenient solution for delivering updates to automobiles remotely. While OTA offers several benefits, it introduces new security challenges requiring immediate attention, as attackers can abuse these update systems to undermine the vehicle security and safety. There are numerous studies investigating various aspects of the automotive cybersecurity; however, security testing of automotive OTA has not been covered adequately, with most of the prior work primarily focusing on proposing improved techniques for securing automotive OTA updates. In order to ensure these update systems are effectively secure, thorough security assessment needs to be performed. To the best of our knowledge, there is currently no study that proposes or employs a systematic security testing approach for evaluating the security of automotive OTA update systems. This study closes this gap by presenting an in-depth security evaluation of Uptane framework, by employing a structured threat analysis approach to constructing attack trees and applying a model-based security testing approach for generating effective security test cases. We implement a software tool that generates the security test cases by analysing the structure of the attack trees and ultimately executing those test cases against the target system. We carry out several experimental attacks on the Uptane reference implementation. While many of the experimental results showed that the reference implementation is secure against different threats and cyberattacks, some findings suggest that the implementation is vulnerable to the denial-of-service and eavesdropping attacks.
Full-text available
In this paper we introduced a new type of social engineering attack via the website. We computed the result and then proposed a method to mitigate that attack. The research objective followed by the description of the experiment and then the mitigation of the suggested attack. The results were properly tabulated and contained the observations of our results. The paper ends with introducing Prashant' s algorith m for setting up the new password and its uniqueness. Social Engineering Attack (SEA) is the art of explo iting the weakest link of in formation security systems i.e., the people who are using them. It is a method of gathering informat ion and then performing attacks against the gathered informat ion and Information Systems. Th is attacks results in a huge amount of loss on any individual's life. SEA mainly occurs due to the low awareness of people regarding the d igital life. This can be identified using the neural network [1]. The objective of this research is to introduce a new type of social engineering attack, co mputing the result and then produce a method to mit igate the attack. A thorough study was performed to take a deeper look on different aspects of SEA and then analyze it. An experiment was performed in wh ich the target people were unable about the attack and analyzing the information obtained. It is to be noted that this attack was performed only for the research and educational purpose and no information was shared or exp loited with this attack. The paper begins with the research objective fo llo wed by the description of the experiment and then the mit igation of the suggested attack. The results were properly tabulated and contained the observations of our results. 2. Objecti ve Our aim is to demonstrate a newer form of social engineering attack and formulate a process for its mit igation. Before we introduce the newer form o f SEA, lets first look into the available forms of social engineering attack like shoulder surfing, baiting, pretexting, stealing passwords, Quid Pro Quo, Tailgating, etc, out of which some of them are discussed below. 2.1. Baiting Baiting involves the transfer of malicious software or program in order to take control over the other co mputer mostly for the criminal desire. It can be in the form of music, mov ie or games downloaded using a peer-to-peer site, or even through a USB flash drive with a company logo labeled like " Final Report on project X-2015 " left out in the open for you to find. Then, once the device is used or downloaded, the perso n or company's computer is infected with malicious software allo wing the criminal to advance into your system. 2.2. Phishing Phishing involves false emails, chats, or websites designed to impersonate real systems with the goal of capturing sensitive data [3]. It usually mocked-up login page with all the right logos to look legitimate. It could also be a message claiming you are the " winner " of some prize or lottery coupled with a request to hand over your bank informat ion, or even a charity plea after a b ig natural disaster with instructions to wire informat ion to the " charity/criminal ". 2.3. Pretexting Pretexting can be referred as the human equivalent of phishing, in which a person impersonates an authority figure or someone of trust to gain access to the required login informat ion. One can impersonate co-workers, the police, tax authorities or other seemingly legitimate people in order to gain access to your computer and information.
Full-text available
The broad objective of this study is to evaluate the vulnerabilities of an organization’s information technology infrastructure, which include hardware and software systems, transmission media, local area networks, wide area networks, enterprise networks, intranets, and its use of the internet to cyber intrusions. To achieve this objective, the paper attempts to explain the importance and the role of social engineering in network intrusions and cyber-theft. It also discusses in vivid detail, the reasons for the rapid expansion of cybercrime. The paper also includes a complete description and definition of social engineering, the role it plays in network intrusion and cyber identity theft, a discussion of the reasons for the rise in cybercrime and their impact on organizations. In closing the authors recommend some preventive measures and possible solutions to the threats and vulnerabilities of social engineering. The paper concludes that while technology has a role to play in reducing the impact of social engineering attacks, the vulnerability resides with human behaviour, human impulses and psychological predispositions. While literature supports the dangers of psychological susceptibilities in social engineering attacks investment in organizational education campaigns offer optimism that social engineering attacks can be reduced.
Full-text available
Online forums serve as offender convergence settings for cybercriminals, but it is unknown whether all cybercriminal networks use forums. Important questions are how cybercriminals meet, how cybercriminal networks develop and what this means for the criminal capabilities of these networks. To gain insight into these questions, we analysed 18 criminal investigations into phishing and malware networks and developed four models of growth. Social ties still play an important role in the origin and growth of the majority of networks. Forums, however, also play a significant role in a number of networks, for example, to find suitable co-offenders or to get into contact with enablers. Criminals with access to forums are able to increase criminal capabilities of their network relatively quickly.
Full-text available
Social engineering has emerged as a serious threat in virtual communities and is an effective means to attack information systems. The services used by today's knowledge workers prepare the ground for sophisticated social engineering attacks. The growing trend towards BYOD (bring your own device) policies and the use of online communication and collaboration tools in private and business environments aggravate the problem. In globally acting companies, teams are no longer geographically co-located, but staffed just-in-time. The decrease in personal interaction combined with a plethora of tools used for communication (e-mail, IM, Skype, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Lync, etc.) create new attack vectors for social engineering attacks. Recent attacks on companies such as the New York Times and RSA have shown that targeted spear-phishing attacks are an effective, evolutionary step of social engineering attacks. Combined with zero-day-exploits, they become a dangerous weapon that is often used by advanced persistent threats. This paper provides a taxonomy of well-known social engineering attacks as well as a comprehensive overview of advanced social engineering attacks on the knowledge worker.
Conference Paper
Cybercrime is on the increase and attacks are becoming ever more sophisticated. Organisations are investing huge sums of money and vast resources in trying to establish effective and timely countermeasures. This is still a game of catch up, where hackers have the upper hand and potential victims are trying to produce secure systems hardened against what feels like are inevitable future attacks. The focus so far has been on technology and not people and the amount of resource allocated to countermeasures and research into cyber security attacks follows the same trend. This paper adds to the growing body of work looking at social engineering attacks and therefore seeks to redress this imbalance to some extent. The objective is to produce a model for social engineering that provides a better understanding of the attack process such that improved and timely countermeasures can be applied and early interventions implemented.
From the Publisher:A Legendary Hacker Reveals How To Guard Against the Gravest Security Risk of All–Human NatureAuthor Biography: Kevin D. Mitnick is a security consultant to corporations worldwide and a cofounder of Defensive Thinking, a Los Angeles-based consulting firm ( He has testified before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs on the need for legislation to ensure the security of the government's information systems. His articles have appeared in major news magazines and trade journals, and he has appeared on Court TV, Good Morning America, 60 Minutes, CNN's Burden of Proof and Headline News, and has been a keynote speaker at numerous industry events. He has also hosted a weekly radio show on KFI AM 640, Los Angeles. William L. Simon is a bestselling author of more than a dozen books and an award-winning film and television writer.
Emerging cyber threats, trends and technologies
  • Wenke Lee
  • Bo Rotoloni
Wenke Lee, Bo Rotoloni, "Emerging cyber threats, trends and technologies", Technical report, Institute for Information Security and Privacy, 2016.
Worldwide threats to the homeland: ISIS and the new wave of terror, statement before the house committee on homeland security Internet security threat report
  • James Comey
James Comey, " Worldwide threats to the homeland: ISIS and the new wave of terror, statement before the house committee on homeland security ", FBI, July 2016. [4] " Internet security threat report ", Technical report, vol. 21, Symantec, April 2016. [5]
Global cybersecurity primer
  • Nahal Sarbjit
  • Ma Beijia
  • Tran Felix
Nahal Sarbjit, Ma Beijia, Tran Felix, "Global cybersecurity primer", Technical report, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, 2015.