Penetration Testing Prevent Social Engineering Attacks

How Can Penetration Testing Prevent Social Engineering Attacks?

April 22, 2022
| Penetration Testing

Sensitive information is everywhere, from the databases of the world’s largest corporations to the social media pages of everyday individuals. Cybercriminals actively seek to acquire this data through social engineering techniques.

Since successful cyberattacks can be extremely costly for organizations, it’s essential to understand how to combat social engineering tactics. Read on to learn more about social engineering attacks and how penetration testers can prevent cybercrime.

What Is Social Engineering?

Social engineering includes a wide range of tactics that malicious hackers implement to acquire information from a target (Suraj, 2021). Essentially, perpetrators of social engineering attacks manipulate users into giving them confidential data, such as passwords or bank information, or access to computers, networks, or applications.

How Do Social Engineering Attacks Happen?

Cybercriminals often use a series of social engineering techniques to scam and manipulate their targets.

Social Engineering Techniques

1. Baiting

Baiting refers to the practice of tricking an intended target into providing sensitive data to malicious websites or applications with the false promise of a reward, such as a financial incentive.

2. Scareware

Scareware involves cybercriminals sending fake threats to individuals to frighten them into handing out their data. Scareware prompts users to install software that claims to protect their system but, in reality, is itself malware.

3. Pretexting

Pretexting occurs when cybercriminals impersonate coworkers, police officers, bankers, or other officials and ask targets to provide personal data, records, or information. Attackers work to establish trust with their targets by acting as authority figures.

4. Phishing

Phishing—a very common social engineering technique—is the practice of sending emails or text messages to targets and prodding them to provide sensitive information or follow links that may contain malware.

5. Spear Phishing

In spear phishing, a subtype of phishing, an attacker hones in on a specific target individual by posing as a family member, friend, or coworker. In this type of social engineering attack, the cybercriminal may pretend to be part of a company, such as an IT consultant, to coax a high-priority target into providing sensitive business data and information.

Defense Against Social Engineering Attacks

One strategy used to prevent social engineering attacks is penetration testing. During a penetration test, an authorized cybersecurity expert checks for security vulnerabilities within an organization’s networks, applications, systems, and devices. Penetration testers are responsible for identifying existing cybersecurity issues—including susceptibility to social engineering techniques—so that these problems can be fixed before cybercriminals can take advantage of them to successfully launch cyberattacks.

Prevent Cyberattacks with Training from EC-Council

If you’re ready to take the next step in your cybersecurity career, consider getting certified with EC-Council as a Certified Penetration Testing Professional (C|PENT). The C|PENT program equips cybersecurity professionals with the skills to handle a wide range of information security threats in real-world scenarios. The curriculum covers emerging attack vectors, threat detection and prevention, and leading penetration testing procedures and methodologies. Contact EC-Council today to learn how to get certified.


Suraj, A. (2021, May 15). Overview of social engineering. Nerd for Tech.

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