The human component is often the weakest link in a system. Because social engineering attacks target people, they often completely bypass many technical security controls. In short, social engineering attacks often result in an attacker gaining access to a target organization and provide the attacker with the same access as a genuinely authorized organization member, such as an employee.
Essentially, this allows an attacker to act as a malicious insider to infiltrate multiple organization systems and exfiltrate sensitive data. Ultimately, social engineering could lead to complete organization compromise, meaning all organization data (emails, credentials, source code, client data, etc.) could be stolen by attackers.
Red team assessments: To minimize the damage of social engineering infiltration, many organizations perform red team assessments to identify areas that require improvement. A red team assessment mimics a true-to-life attack scenario that uses social engineering techniques. The value of a red team assessment is that upon its completion, the assessors can prescribe actions that will strengthen the organization’s overall security posture and are tailored to integrate with the organization’s business needs.
Awareness training: One of the best defenses against social engineering attacks is social engineering awareness training. Such training will make employees mindful of the risks and encourage skepticism of suspicious activity. The ultimate goal of such training is to instill a business culture that promotes secure thought and action. Examples include disallowing tailgating, confronting suspicious individuals, verifying the identity of unknown individuals before discussing any sensitive information, reporting suspect activity, etc.
Secure architecture: A secure system is built from the ground up and designed with the expectation that one or more components will become compromised at some point. Consequently, secure systems include fail-safes designed to mitigate the collateral damage of such failures automatically. Such design features can be applied to a system in retrospect after a secure design and architecture review.