Social engineering involves tricking people into giving up personal information such as passwords or bank information or allowing access to a computer in order to secretly install malicious software. Thieves and fraudsters use social engineering because it is easier to fool someone into revealing their password than it is to hack it.
The weakest links in any security chain are humans. Social engineering seeks to exploit this weak link by appealing to people's vanity, greed, curiosity, altruism, or respect for or fear of authority in order to get them to reveal certain information or allow access to an IT system.
Where social engineering comes from
There are a number of social engineering techniques thieves use. These include baiting (offering something you want as a way to get you to download a malicious file), phishing (a fraudulent email meant to trick you into sharing personal information), pretexting (pretending to be someone else in order to get access to privileged data) or scareware (tricking you into thinking your computer is infected with malware and then offering a solution that infects your computer).
How to recognize social engineering
Any unsolicited advice or help should be treated with caution, especially if it involves clicking on a link, as it's likely an attempt at social engineering. Likewise, any requests for your password or financial data is undoubtedly a trick - legitimate institutions will never ask for your password. Also, be sure to check the email address of any suspicious email you receive to verify that it's a legitimate address.
How to remove social engineering
Since social engineering is a technique rather than a physical thing, it's not actually possible to remove it from your computer. The best way to avoid social engineering is by not allowing yourself to be fooled. Barring that, if you have been socially engineered, your best option is to use a high-quality antivirus program to remove any malicious files and to change all your passwords using a strong password application to create and store unbreakable passwords.
How to prevent social engineering
- Never take anything, you're not absolutely certain about, at face value
- Don't accept any offers you didn't request
- Don't click on any links from unknown sources
- Don't give out your password or banking data
Protect yourself against social engineering
The very nature of social engineering is meant to circumvent any technological protections by targeting you, a person, instead of your computer. That being said, a strong antivirus program such as Avast Antivirus can prevent unwanted downloads, detect and remove viruses and malware, and filter out spam mail in order to protect you from most phishing attempts.