Think about hackers breaking into accounts. If you think they need top-notch computer skills, you would be wrong. These days, instead of requiring skills behind a keyboard, hackers generally rely on strategy…specifically a strategy called social engineering. This means that hackers don’t have to be technical, but they DO have to be clever and crafty because they are essentially taking advantage of people and “tricking” them into giving information.
There are four main ways that hackers use social engineering:
- Phishing – where hackers use email tricks to get account information
- Vishing – similar to phishing, but through voice over the phone
- Impersonation – the act of getting information in person
- Smishing – getting account info through text messages
Phishing accounts for 77 percent of all social engineering incidents, according to Social Engineer, but in vishing attacks, alone, businesses lose, on average, $43,000 per account.
Here are the top scams that all consumers and businesses should know about as we move into 2017:
Scam Using the IRS
Starting from the holiday season stretching through the end of tax season, there are scams involving the IRS. One such scam uses caller ID to change the true number of the caller and replaces it with a number from Washington, D.C., making it look like the number is from the IRS. Usually, the hacker already knows a lot about the victim, as they got information illegally, so it really sounds legit.
In this scam, the hacker tells the victim that they owe a couple of thousands of dollars to the IRS. If the victim falls for it, the hacker explains that due to the tardiness, it must be paid via a money transfer, which is non-traceable and nonrefundable.
BEC or Business Email Compromise Scam
In the business email compromise, or BEC scam, a hacker’s goal is to get into a business email account and get access to any financial data that is stored within. This might be login information, back statements, or verifications of payments or wire transfers.
Sometimes a hacker will access the email by using an email file that contains malware. If an employee opens the file, the malware will infect the computer and the hacker has an open door to come right in.
Another way that hackers use the BEC scan is to access the email of a CEO. In this case, they will impersonate the CEO and tell the financial powers that be that he or she requires a wire transfer to a bank account. This account, of course, belongs to the hacker not the business. When most people get an email from their boss asking them to do something, they do it.
Finally, hackers are also commonly using ransomware to hack their victims. In this case, the hackers are working towards convincing targets to install dangerous software onto their computer. Then, the computer locks out the data and the victim cannot access it…until he or she pays a ransom.
At this point, they are informed that they can get access back when they pay a ransom. This might range from a couple of hundred to several thousands. Usually, the hackers demand payment by bank transfer, credit card, bitcoin, PayPal, or money transfer services. Victims are usually encouraged to go to a certain website or call a certain number Unfortunately, too often, once the victim pays the ransom, the hacker never opens up the system. So now, the hacker has access to the victim’s computer and their credit card or financial information.
The way social engineering works in this scam is varied:
One way is this…imagine you are browsing the internet, and then you get a popup warning that looks quite official, such as from the FBI. It might say something like “Our programs have found child pornography on your computer. You are immediately being reported to the FBI unless you pay a fine.” When you click the popup to pay, the program actually downloads a program called spyware to your computer that will allow the hacker to access your system.
Another way that social engineering works with ransomware is through voice. In this case, you might get a phone call from someone saying they are from Microsoft and the representative tells you that they have scanned your computer and have found files that are malicious. Fortunately, they can remotely access the machine and fix the problem, but you have to install a program to allow this. When you install it, you give them access to everything, including personal and financial information, and they can do what they want with it.
Finally, you might get an email offering a free screen saver or coupon, but when you open it, the software encrypts your drive and takes over your computer.
Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.