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The Psychology Behind Social Engineering

In the context of data, social engineering is the psychological manipulation of people into performing an action and divulging sensitive information, thus making them vulnerable to cybercrime. Known to some as the traditional con, social engineering tricks a user’s confidence by taking them through several steps towards a fraud scam. But how does it work? How can you rely on the unpredictability of human error?

There are several reasons why humans are duped into scams in front of them, from gullibility to curiosity. However, the two most common reasons are optimism bias and fatalistic thinking.

The Optimism Bias

This is a cognitive phenomenon in which someone believes that they are less likely to experience an adverse event. This optimistic thinking leads a person into the mistaken belief that the chances of that negative thing happening to them are minimal, and so they are more likely to take the risk presented to them.

This works in social engineering scams because when a user is faced with an email in which it states ‘click here for your chance to win,’ they are less likely to think of the perceived risks and more likely to assume that these perceived risks will not happen to them. This takes on a dangerous guise for any business owner or any individual since it does not take much for cybercriminals to access your data—that one click into unknown territory, because you think it won’t happen to you, could be the way in for a cybercriminal.

Fatalistic Thinking

Fatalism is an attitude or tendency of a group or individual to believe that their fate is driven or in the hands of some unforeseen power. Whatever they do, it is bigger and higher than them, so they cannot control the outcome. They would live by the mindset that everything can be coopted by something higher or more significant than themselves, so there is little point in protecting themselves from any threat or risk.

In social engineering, this phenomenon is used to trick those fatalistic humans into clicking onto links and opening emails whenever they please. They fall into the trap of thinking that if this is a scam, the potential risk was more significant than them, so there is nothing they can do about it.

Social Engineering Crimes

Cybercriminals use these two phenomena against users to get them to reply to fake emails, hyperlinks, and web pages. Once they have clicked in, they are far more likely to give up personal information, click on malware links, and open attachments which have harmful software inside. It is, therefore, integral for companies to protect themselves against the fallibility of human thinking and psychology by investing in social engineering prevention software to ensure their safety from malicious links.

Unfortunately, the unpredictability of human psychology and the principles they live by means it is hard to keep track of how and when someone might fall into the trap of a bogus email or scam. The proper security will ensure your data’s safety and make room for human error.

Shehbaz Malik
Shehbaz Malik
A computer science graduate. Interested in emerging technological wonders that are making mankind more approachable to explore the universe. I truly believe that blockchain advancements will bring long-lasting revolutions in people’s lives. Being a blogger, I occasionally share my point of views regarding the user experience of digital products.


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