What is Social Engineering Penetration Testing?
Social engineering penetration testing is a practice that involves simulating typical social engineering tactics on a company’s employees to gauge the organisation’s level of vulnerability to these forms of attacks.
Social engineering pen testing employs a diverse array of strategies (See here), notably incorporating phishing attacks, which are commonly used to assess the susceptibility of employees to deceptive practices. Testers might send an email that solicits sensitive information from an employee, prompts them to open an attachment, or directs them to navigate to an unauthorised website. This information is then collected by the tester to document the volume of employees who are vulnerable to such attacks. In most cases this number is higher than the organisation would have expected, for example; The Verizon Data Breach Investigation report shows that “74% of breaches involved the human element, which includes social engineering attacks, errors, or misuse”.
“Trust is the golden key to the fortress of cyber security, and social engineers are the locksmiths.”— Callum Duncan, Sencode Technical Director
The primary goal of social engineering penetration testing is to assess how well employees adhere to established security protocols and practices (If any are in place at the organisation), offering vital insights into potential security breaches. This testing also aims to highlight the efficacy of security training that employees may have received.
Alternatively, a tester might engage in vishing (voice phishing) by calling employees and masquerading as a trusted employee from another department. This multifaceted approach not only tests the digital security awareness of employees but also their preparedness against telephonic or in-person social engineering attempts, ensuring a thorough examination of potential human-centric vulnerabilities in the organisation’s cybersecurity framework.
How is social engineering pen testing performed?
Here’s a general overview of how social engineering penetration testing is typically performed in a corporate environment. The process is planned and executed to assess an organisation’s vulnerabilities and arm its employees with the knowledge and skills to recognise and thwart potential attacks.
Why social engineering penetration testing is important.
Social engineering penetration testing has become crucial part of any organisations security testing regimen, especially with the rise of cybercriminal activities that exploit human vulnerabilities continuing to rise. Social engineering has become a dominant strategy among cybercriminals, effectively bypassing technical controls that may be in place and exploiting human errors.
With social engineering consistently cited as a top attack vector, the focus on human factors in cybersecurity is notably highlighted. Social Engineering Penetration Testing is vital in identifying vulnerabilities within an organisation’s human element, offering critical insights into weaknesses and gaps in security controls related to human behaviour and decision-making.
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Who should get a social engineering penetration test?
Social engineering penetration tests are essential for a wide array of organisations across various sectors, particularly those that handle sensitive data. Here are some entities that should consider getting tested:
- Corporations and Enterprises: Large entities, often custodians of extensive sensitive data, become lucrative targets for cybercriminals. Social engineering penetration tests can assist in safeguarding their data and preserving their reputation.
- Financial Institutions: Banks and financial organisations, due to the financial information they manage, are frequent targets for cyberattacks. These tests can fortify both the institution and its customers against potential breaches.
- Healthcare Providers: Healthcare entities, with a plethora of sensitive patient data, must shield information from attackers who might exploit it for malevolent purposes.
- Educational Institutions: Schools and universities, which manage personal data of students and staff and often engage in valuable research, should safeguard their environments from potential social engineering attacks.
In essence, any entity that manages data engages in digital transactions or has a digital presence should consider social engineering penetration tests to safeguard against potential attacks
What are the next steps?
Contact a member of our consulting team either by phone, email, or pigeon post. We will then discuss whether we can help you and arrange a scoping meeting to discuss your requirements.
In the scoping meeting, our expert consultants will discuss and finalise which digital assets you need testing. We will then put together a project proposal and quote based on the requirements and agree on a schedule for conducting the security assessment.
The testing starts. A member of our penetration testing team will liaise with a member of your company throughout the entire testing process. If we have any questions or concerns, you will be the first to know.
Report & Remediate
A penetration test is useless without a well-written report. Our reports are written in plain English, concise and thoroughly documented. Each report will detail an executive summary, risk ratings, a business risk summary and all of the issues we found throughout the engagement.
Book your retest.
Here at Sencode we offer free retesting with every penetration test we conduct.
You fix the issues, then we will verify they can no longer be exploited by an attacker.
Get a security certificate for your business.
Just a PDF document with a list of issues? No way.
Our clients receive a testing certificate that can be shared with partners and customers alike. Showing that your company takes security seriously.
Get a free, no obligation quote from one of our expert staff.
Frequently Asked Questions
Preventing social engineering attacks is pivotal for safeguarding an organisation’s data and maintaining trust with stakeholders. While it might be challenging to eradicate the risk entirely, equipping individuals and systems with the right tools and knowledge can significantly mitigate the potential impact of these attacks. Here are some steps an organisation can take:
– Ensure that employees are aware of the various forms of social engineering attacks and know how to recognise and respond to them.
– Develop a plan that outlines how to respond to social engineering incidents and ensure that it is tested and refined regularly.
– Utilise MFA to add an additional layer of security, making it more difficult for attackers to gain access to accounts, even if they have the credentials.
– Ensure that individuals have only the access they need to perform their roles and no more, reducing the potential impact of an account being compromised.
– Promote the use of secure, encrypted communication channels for sharing sensitive information.
– Perform assessments, including social engineering penetration tests, to identify vulnerabilities and ensure that systems are secure.
– Foster an organisational culture that prioritises security, encouraging employees to be vigilant and proactive in recognising and reporting suspicious activities.
A human firewall is a group of individuals working for a company who strictly follow cybersecurity best practices and serve as a vital line of defense against cyber threats. This idea is based on equipping the workforce with the knowledge and skills necessary to recognise and correctly respond to possible cybersecurity risks, both internal and external. The human firewall comprises being attentive about real-world threats as well as upholding digital best practices, such as protecting sensitive documents and exercising caution when connecting to insecure networks in different locations.
A well-structured human firewall can significantly mitigate the risk of cyber attacks by making it challenging for cyber attackers to gain access, especially through basic forms of attack like phishing. Adequate training can enable employees to accurately identify phishing emails, avoid engaging with malicious links, and report them to IT and security teams for further investigation.