Keepnet Labs Logo
Keepnet Labs > blog > what-are-common-examples-of-social-engineering-attacks

What Are Common Examples Of Social Engineering Attacks?

Explore the types of social engineering attacks - phishing, vishing, smishing, pretexting, and more. Understand how different type of social engineering attacks works, recognize the warning signs, and arm yourself with strategies to protect your personal and organizational data against these sophisticated cyber threats.

What Are Common Examples Of Social Engineering Attacks?

What Are Social Engineering Attacks?

Social engineering attacks involve the manipulation of individuals to gain unauthorised access to information or systems. Unlike traditional hacking methods that focus on exploiting technical vulnerabilities, social engineering attacks exploit the human element, preying on our natural inclination to trust others. These attacks can occur through various channels such as email, phone calls, text messages, or even in person.

How Do Social Engineering Attacks Work?


To understand how social engineering attacks work, we need to break down the process into three distinct stages: discovery and investigation, deception and hook, and the actual attack.

1. Discovery and Investigation

During the discovery and investigation phase, the attacker gathers information about their target. They may use various methods such as online research, social media profiling, or even dumpster diving to gather personal details that can be leveraged later.

2. Deception and Hook

Once armed with the necessary information, the attacker moves on to the deception and hook phase. This involves creating a scenario or message that appeals to the target's emotions, curiosity, or sense of urgency. The attacker may pose as a trusted individual, a company representative, or a technical support agent to establish credibility and gain the target's trust.

3. Attack

The final stage is the actual attack, where the attacker convinces the target to disclose sensitive information, click on malicious links, download infected files, or perform other actions that compromise their security. This can result in data breaches, identity theft, financial loss, or unauthorized access to systems.

8 Examples of Social Engineering Attacks


Social engineering attacks come in various forms, each with its own way of working and potential for damage. Let's explore 8 common examples:

1. Phishing

Phishing is one of the most widely used and dangerous social engineering attacks. It involves sending out phishing emails that look like they come from a legitimate source, such as a bank or an online service provider. These emails often prompt the user to click on a phishing link, leading them to a fake website where the attacker collects their login credentials, credit card information, or other sensitive data.

2. Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is a more targeted form of phishing. In this attack, the attacker customizes the email or message to look like it's from someone the target trusts, using details like the target's name, job role, or the groups and organizations they're connected to, aiming to make the message seem more legitimate and trick the target into giving away sensitive information or taking certain actions.

3. Vishing

Vishing, short for voice phishing, involves the use of phone calls to trick individuals into revealing personal information or performing specific actions. The attacker may pose as a bank representative, a tech support agent, or a government official, using various tactics to create a sense of urgency or fear to manipulate the target into complying with their demands.

4. Smishing

Similar to vishing, smishing takes advantage of text messages instead of phone calls. The attacker sends deceptive text messages that often appear to be from a trusted source, such as a bank or a service provider. These messages typically contain a link or a phone number that, when interacted with, can lead to the disclosure of sensitive information or the installation of malware on the target's device.

5. Pretexting

Pretexting involves making up a story or situation to trick individuals into sharing private information or doing things they normally wouldn't. The attacker might pretend to be a coworker, a customer, or someone in charge, creating a believable story that makes the target think their request is legitimate. Pretexting attacks often take advantage of the target's desire to be helpful or their fear of consequences.

6. Baiting

Baiting attacks involve attracting individuals with the promise of something desirable or valuable in exchange for their personal information or actions. This can take the form of free downloads, exclusive offers, or even physical objects left in public spaces. Once the target takes the bait, their information may be compromised, or they may accidentally install malware onto their device.

7. Tailgating

Tailgating, also known as piggybacking, exploits physical security vulnerabilities. In this attack, the attacker follows an authorized individual into a restricted area by closely tailing them, taking advantage of their access privileges. By blending in and appearing non-threatening, the attacker gains unauthorized access to sensitive areas or information.

8. Quishing

QR phishing, often referred to as quishing, involves tricking victims into scanning a malicious QR code. This code either links to a fraudulent website or initiates a malware download. These deceptive QR codes, posted on flyers, advertisements, or products, often seem trustworthy. They are deployed by malicious actors who impersonate legitimate businesses. When the code is scanned by a smartphone camera, it executes seamlessly, giving the user no indication of the redirection to a harmful site.

How to Identify Most Types of Social Engineering Attacks?

Social engineering attacks can be difficult to identify, as attackers often use sophisticated techniques to deceive their targets. Common signs to watch out for include unexpected requests for sensitive information or immediate action, urgency or fear tactics used to pressure targets into complying, poor grammar and spelling in messages, unusual sender or caller details, and unfamiliar or unexpected requests.

Paying attention to these red flags can help you spot potential social engineering attempts and protect yourself from falling victim to these attacks.

How to Protect Your Information from Social Engineering Attacks?

While it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of social engineering attacks, there are steps you can take to reduce your vulnerability. Educating yourself about common social engineering tactics and staying informed about the latest attack techniques is important.

Being cautious about unexpected requests and double-checking the authenticity of these requests through reliable sources can prevent you from becoming a victim of social engineering scams. Additionally, creating strong, unique passwords, using two-factor authentication, and regularly updating your software are key steps in securing your accounts and devices against unauthorized access.

Try Keepnet Labs Social Engineering Simulation Tools

Keepnet Labs offers social engineering simulation tools in a unified human risk management platform. These simulation tools and others are designed to protect your organization against social engineering attacks. Don’t let a social engineering attack breach your organization. Use social engineering simulation tools like Voice Phishing (Vishing), QR Code Phishing (Quishing), SMS Phishing (Smishing), MFA Phishing or Callback Phishing, and security awareness training tools to empower your employees to fight against phishing attacks.

Want to learn more about what Keepnet can do for your organization? Watch our full product demo below to see the power of our SaaS platform in action.



Schedule your 30-minute demo now!

You'll learn how to:
tickLaunch various types of simulated social engineering attacks on employees to identify their most vulnerable points.
tickCreate detailed executive reports that include your organization’s overall phishing risk score and how aware your employees are of phishing simulation attacks.
tickGet a 12-month program package that automates simulations and training every month, reducing manual tasks and saving time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the biggest risk to social engineering attacks?

arrow down

The biggest risk of social engineering attacks is the potential unauthorized access to sensitive information, systems, or facilities. By manipulating and deceiving people, attackers can bypass security measures and gain access to confidential data, financial information, intellectual property, and more.

This can lead to identity theft, financial losses, reputational damage, and other severe consequences for individuals and organizations.

Why do people fall for social engineering attacks?

arrow down

People fall for social engineering attacks for various reasons. One major factor is the lack of awareness and training about these types of attacks, which leaves individuals vulnerable to manipulation.

Additionally, humans naturally trust others, especially those who appear to be in positions of authority or who seem to have a legitimate reason for making requests.

People also have a desire to be helpful, even to strangers, which attackers exploit. Fear of consequences for not complying with requests that seem to come from superiors can also play a role. Attackers are skilled at manipulating human emotions like curiosity, greed, or urgency, and they craft convincing pretexts and scenarios to make their requests appear legitimate.

What are the two major forms of social engineering attacks?

arrow down

The two major forms of social engineering attacks are human-based attacks and computer-based attacks. Human-based attacks involve direct interaction between the attacker and the target, either in person or through communication channels like phone calls or chat.

Examples of human-based attacks include impersonation, where the attacker pretends to be someone else; tailgating, where the attacker follows an authorized person into a restricted area; and shoulder surfing, where the attacker observes the target entering sensitive information.

On the other hand, computer-based attacks rely on digital means to deceive targets. These include phishing emails that appear to come from legitimate sources, spoofed websites that mimic real ones to steal login credentials, malware attachments that infect systems when opened, and scareware pop-ups that trick users into downloading malicious software.

What are some warning signs of social engineering attacks?

arrow down

There are several warning signs that may indicate a social engineering attack. One of the most common is an unexpected request for sensitive information, especially from an unknown source. Attackers often try to create a sense of urgency, pressuring targets to act quickly or face consequences.

They may also make promises of rewards or benefits that seem too good to be true. Inconsistencies in the story or pretext being used by the attacker can also be a red flag. Suspicious attachments, links, or websites that prompt for login credentials should always be treated with caution.

Sometimes, attackers may compromise the accounts of trusted sources, so unusual or unexpected communication from these sources should be verified through other channels. Finally, poor grammar, spelling, or unprofessional language in official-looking communications can be a sign that the message is not legitimate.

iso 27017 certificate
iso 27018 certificate
iso 27001 certificate
ukas 20382 certificate
Cylon certificate
Crown certificate
Gartner certificate
Tech Nation certificate