5 Emotions Hackers Use Against You
What happened the last time you received a suspicious link on your phone? You probably ignored it. Nowadays, many people know to steer clear ofstrange emails, text messages, links, downloads, and websites because such threat vectors can compromise their security and privacy. So, how are cybercriminals responding? With social engineering attacks.
So, what is social engineering in terms of cybersecurity? Social engineering is when a threat actor uses your emotions against you. They expect you to make irrational decisions in an emotional state to help them achieve one or more of the following goals:
• Steal your usernames and passwords
• Infect your computer or device with malware
• Trick you into sending money through an online transfer or a gift card
• Trick you into buying them an expensive product
• Use you to launder money
• Gain access to your device and steal sensitive data
Let’s look at some of the emotions a social engineering attack can exploit:
Greed is at the heart of one of the world’s most infamousonline social engineering attacks: The Nigerian Prince Scam. Here, a scammer, or a gang of scammers, pretend to be a Nigerian prince who isin desperate need of a loan or an investment. They promise their victims a generous return. Of course, once the fraudsters receive the payment, they’re usually not heard from again.
Other scams that take advantage of this emotion promise prizes if you download something, donate a certain amount of money, or share a post on social media. For example, the Ellen DeGeneres scam offered giveaways in exchange for Facebook likes and shares.
Romance scams usually target senior citizens. Fraudsters starting by befriending a vulnerable person on the Internet. After building a relationship, they mayask for money for a plane ticket or an emergency. But romance scams don’t just target the elderly. For example, state-sponsored spies are known to lay ‘honeytraps’ to trick their targets. Similarly, a corporate spy can use romance scams to deceive an organization’s employee and breach the company’s network.
Social engineering attacks can use lust to trick Internet users into clicking malicious links or visiting malicious websites. While malicious links may run scams, malicious websites may use clickjacking malware to hijack clicks.
Fear is a common emotion for cybercriminals to manipulate because it can override any person’s logic circuits. A hacker may use a popup to scare their target into believing that they have a dangerous virus infection. The popup may also offer a link that opens a backdoor or installs malware like spyware or ransomware.
Sometimes, a scammer uses a couple of emotions together. For example, in the sextortion email scam, a scammer may use lust to encourage a target to visit a malicious adult website. Later, the victim may see a popup that says that a hacker recorded them through their webcam while there. The popup may demand money through a cryptocurrency in exchange for the compromising media.
Scammers use sadness to trick good people into sending money for fraudulent causes. These scams often use footage of a tragedy to play with the victim’s emotions. It’s best to verify the information before sending payment to avoid filling the pockets of cybercriminals.
Hackers are using more complex tactics to manipulate us and commit cybercrimes. The best way to counter social engineering attacks is to take a moment to analyze the situation and verify the facts before reacting.
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