Updated: Jun 19, 2021
The key is this: if you want to stop a hacker, you got to think like a hacker!
So what are some of the psychological techniques used by hackers to commit cyber crimes?
#1: Providing something the victim needs
The most common psychological trick is quite simple: providing, or seeming to provide, something the victim needs. Many of us scoff at emails promising free products, but it can be much more crafty than that. Perhaps you’re at a conference when the Wi-Fi goes down. Before you know it, a backup network is up and running, but you’re prompted to enter your credentials again. This captive portal, purposefully launched by an attacker, could distribute malware or steal information from your device. The hacker has created the need and the solution, without arising suspicion.
#2: Using a person of authority
Such attacks can be made more powerful if the attacker appears to be a person of authority. In recent years, there has been a rise in assailants that use information gathered about higher-level employees to impersonate them. From the victim’s perspective, it may look like their boss requesting an important document or credential. In reality, it could be an attacker posing as them. The further an attacker infiltrates a network, the easier such impersonation becomes.
#3: Targeting stressful periods
Information gathering acquired through these methods also helps a hacker launch attacks during stressful periods, when logical thinking is compromised. When a deadline is looming and stress levels are high, employees are more likely to lose focus and download a document or open an attachment without thinking.
#4: Diversion of attention
Finally, but crucially, hackers will try to divert your attention one way while performing an attack elsewhere. It could be as simple as an email from a “co-worker”, asking you to print and deliver a physical document to their desk, whilst your system is being compromised in the background. And this is why it is crucial to train your employees through cyber security awareness training!
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