Hackers Target Social Media for Social Engineering Attacks

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dan Dieterle

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Hackers using Social Engineering attacks are getting much better at their craft, and people are making it very easy for them.

A Social Engineer will use information gathered about a person, place or business in specially crafted attacks that play on people’s thoughts, beliefs or emotions.

But how do they get personal information that they could use against someone?

Drum roll please… Social Media sites!

“No way”, you say, “I only give friends, colleagues and people I know access to my Facebook page.” Do you really? I mean come on, let’s be honest. We have all seen them, people with 500, 1000, even 2000 people or more on their friends list. Do they really know all those people?

People are human, and humans are always into popularity contests. It reminds me of the TV commercial where the daughter is sitting in front of her computer with hundreds of friends on her social media site. And she is making fun of her parents who have like 5 on their site, but then it shows the parents out kayaking (or something like that) with friends.

Hackers are using this very weakness of the human psyche to gain pertinent and sometimes very personal information about a person. But how you ask?

How about Linked-In? Do you get friend requests from people you have never heard of that “know you” from some website, have similar likes or dislikes, or attended the same conference? Hackers are gaining full technical backgrounds, co-worker names, titles and even full resumes using this very simple tactic.

It also works on Facebook. Except here, social engineers gain personal information about you. Everything from news about your family, your interests (sports, clubs, etc), heck some even go as far as to tell you their travel plans and even food preferences. Sometimes a lucky hacker will even get the daily itinerary of a very trusting individual.

How could they leverage this information in an attack?

Simple, from Linked-In they could craft an e-mail saying they are from some company that you worked with or for. Or from Facebook, that they are from your kid’s school or from one of the many clubs that you attend and have scheduling or other important “news”. All this in an attempt to get you to click on a link that heads to a malware infested site or to get you to run a PDF file that contains a backdoor trojan.

A friend recently received an e-mail supposedly from the technical support department for a product that he actually owned. It was about an important update and the link for the update led to a site that tried several browser exploits in attempts to install remote access malware. It was very believable, luckily the broken English in the e-mail made him think twice before he visited the site.

How do you protect yourself from these types of attacks?

It is always best to actually know or have met the person that you are allowing into your social media circles. Limit the level of personal information that you place on these sites. And be very careful telling people your schedules.

Do your 2000+ friends really need to know that you will be out of the country for 2 weeks and what airline you will use and what hotel you will be staying at?

Just some things to think about. Hackers are getting much better using Social Engineering attacks. A little discretion will go a long way.

Cross-posted from Cyber Arms

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