The essential role of social engineering in security

What is social engineering? 

Social engineering involves targeted tactics aimed at deceiving, manipulating, and influencing individuals with the ultimate goal of obtaining confidential information, gaining access to secure systems, or initiating actions that benefit the attacker. This tactic is subtle but extremely effective. 

What is the role of social engineering? 

Why is it absolutely necessary to understand the role of social engineering in IT-security? Here are some compelling arguments: 

Identification of human weaknesses 

People are inherently susceptible to deception and can make mistakes. By studying and understanding social engineering tactics, organizations can accurately pinpoint human weaknesses within their organization. This includes issues such as: 

  • Leaving computer sessions without proper locking 

  • Flying papers with passwords 

  • Weak badging and camera/surveillance system 

  • Vishing (voice phishing by phone) 

  • Personal and professional misuse 

  • Passwords left on devices (e.g., printer, switch) 

  • Clicking on malicious links in phishing emails 

  • Unintentional leakage of confidential information  

Awareness of risks  

Understanding social engineering helps raise awareness among employees of the risks associated with thoughtless actions, such as sharing confidential data or opening suspicious attachments. This often leads to an increased level of security awareness within the organization. 

What are the types of social engineering? 

Social engineering encompasses various tactics and approaches aimed at manipulating human behavior to obtain confidential information or access to systems. Here are some common types of social engineering: 

Watering hole 

Attackers identify and compromise websites frequently visited by the target individuals or organizations. By infecting these sites with malware, the attackers aim to exploit the trust users have in those websites. 

Honeytraps (romance scams) 

In romance scams, attackers create fake profiles and establish online romantic relationships with individuals. They manipulate emotions to exploit victims financially, extracting money or sensitive information. 

Physical intrusion 

This involves gaining unauthorized access to physical premises. Attackers may impersonate employees, contractors, or other trusted individuals to infiltrate a secure location physically. Physical intrusion could lead to theft, espionage, or other malicious activities. 


Attackers send fake emails that appear to come from legitimate sources, such as banks, companies, or government agencies. The intention is to lure recipients into providing personal information, such as passwords or creditcard details, by directing them to forged websites. 

Spear phishing 

This form of phishing targets specific individuals or organizations. Attackers gather information about their targets in advance to create credible and personalized phishing emails. 

USB dropping 

Malicious actors strategically leave USB-flash drives in the hope that unsuspecting users will pick them up and connect them to their computers. This makes USB drops a variant of baiting, where the attacker offers an enticing lure in the form of a USB-flash drive. 

Pretexting attacks 

In a pretexting attack, the attacker poses as a trusted entity, such as an IT-support staff, technical support employee, bank representative, or customer. They attempt to gain access to confidential information or systems by exploiting human tendencies for helpfulness or curiosity. 


In this form of social engineering, physical devices or digital files infected with malware are left in a location where targets are likely to find them. People are misled into opening or using the infected items, resulting in a security breach. 


An attacker waits at the entrance of a secure location and attempts to gain access simply by walking in with a legitimate employee. This can happen in office environments where access cards are used. 

Pretexting - impersonation 

Ever encountered someone impersonating a colleague, IT support personnel, or even a senior executive to obtain confidential data? That's pretexting in action. It entails fabricating scenarios to extract information from targets, often through impersonation or posing as a trusted entity, such as in phishing or vishing scenarios.  

Fear, intimidation and corruption 

Imagine a scenario where individuals are manipulated into divulging information or taking specific actions by instilling a sense of urgency or fear. This tactic involves leveraging psychological pressure to coerce compliance. Another method involves targeting weak collaborators or ex-employees, such as those who may harbour grievances against the company. Attackers might scour platforms like Glassdoor or LinkedIn to identify individuals who possess valuable internal knowledge. Alternatively, they might resort to more clandestine methods, such as bribing maid services for insider information. These tactics illustrate the lengths to which attacke

Quid pro quo 

In this type of attack, the attacker offers something in exchange for information or access. For example, they may pose as IT-support and promise technical assistance in exchange for login credentials. 

Dumpster diving 

These attacks involve searching physical or digital trash containers to obtain valuable information. This can range from sifting through paper documents to examining deleted files on hard drives. 


Attackers may impersonate legitimate employees, customers, or other trusted parties to gain trust and access to systems or information. 

Vishing (voice phishing) 

This attack uses phone calls to convince victims to disclose confidential information, such as passwords or personal data. 

Online Research (OSINT) 

Attackers use publicly available information from social media and other online sources to create a detailed picture of their targets and conduct targeted attacks. 


Social engineering plays a vital role in the security of organizations. Understanding this technique is essential to identify human weaknesses and increase awareness of security risks. It helps organizations better prepare for potential threats arising from human behavior and negligence. It is an investment in ensuring the security of sensitive information and protecting organizations from potential breaches. 


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