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What is Pretexting in Cybersecurity and How to Prevent it

What is Pretexting

In the world of cybersecurity, there are many terms and strategies that you need to be aware of to keep your data safe. One such term is pretexting, a type of social engineering attack. 

In this article, we’ll explain what pretexting is and how you can prevent it.

What is Pretexting in Cybersecurity?

Pretexting happens when an attacker creates a false pretext, or story, to obtain sensitive information from their victim. The attacker will typically pose as someone with a legitimate need for the information, such as an employer, government official, or technical support person.

Pretexting attacks are becoming more common as cybercriminals become more sophisticated in their methods. These attacks can be hard to prevent, but there are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your organization.

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First, be aware of the signs that an attacker may be trying to pretext you. These can include unexpected requests for personal information or proposals that seem out of context. Do not click or respond immediately to such requests. It’s best to take time to verify the request and the person making it.

Second, have solid policies and procedures for handling sensitive information requests. Ensure only authorized personnel have access to this information and that all requests are properly logged and tracked.

Finally, provide security awareness training to your employees, so they know what to look for and how to handle suspicious requests.

Pretexting Attack Techniques

Pretexting attacks can be challenging to detect and prevent, as they rely on human interaction and manipulation. Nonetheless, it’s best to be safe than sorry, so here we go with some steps to protect yourself from pretexting attacks:

  1. Be doubtful of surprising requests for personal information, especially if the request comes from someone you don’t know or trust. 
  2. Be private as much as possible about your personal information. Never share it with anyone unless it’s your manager physically present, confirming such access.
  3. If you have doubts you may have been the victim of a pretexting attack, report it to the proper authorities immediately.

The main types that a user goes into pretexting attacks are impersonation, tailgating, piggybacking, baiting, phishing, vishing, smishing, or scareware.

How to Prevent Pretexting in Cybersecurity?

Pretexting is when someone uses pretenses to access your personal or financial information. They may act like a legitimate business or person to get you to share sensitive data, such as your bank account credentials or social security number. Pretexting can happen over the phone, by email, or in person.

What can you do to save yourself the hassle of pretexting?

– Be suspicious of unsolicited requests for personal information, especially if the request comes out of the blue. 

– Don’t open emails and particularly links from unknown people. These could be phishing attempts to trick you into revealing personal information or downloading malware

– Verify the identity of anyone who contacts you before sharing any information. 

– Keep an eye out for red flags that might indicate someone is trying to scam you, such as high-pressure tactics, unexpected requests for money, or threats. 

1: Integrate DMARC Protocol to Prevent Cyber Disasters

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One of the fundamental actions you can take in cybersecurity is implementing DMARC. This technique stands for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance, and it is a protocol that helps prevent email spoofing. 

By implementing DMARC, you can help ensure that the emails sent and received from your domain are not spoofed and that any suspicious activity is directly reported. 

Additionally, DMARC can also help to protect your recipients from phishing attacks. Although it might be challenging to maintain, it’s one of the worthiest investments in protecting your company’s data. 

2: Implement NLP as AI Analysis

Pretexting can take many forms, but one common tactic is for an attacker to pose as a legitimate entity to trick a victim into revealing confidential information. 

For example, an attacker may pretend to be a customer service representative to obtain a victim’s credit card number or account password.

Since pretexting attackers continually uncover new methods to hack systems, companies must keep up with their safeguards by implementing even more modern strategies than DMARC.

The anti-spear phishing technology operates with artificial intelligence to analyze the behaviors of humans and phishing bots. Moreover, this helps detect signs and find anomalies in email addresses, such as email spoofing. 

The most advantageous part of AI is using NLP (natural language processing) to decode words typically used in pretexting.

3: Educate Employees and Customers About Potential Attacks

One way to prevent pretexting attacks from stealing login credentials, financial information, or even physical access to a victim’s premises is through user education. 

Most of the time, pretexting succeeds because companies neglect that not all of their employees are tech nerds. Employees tend to open an email to do their job; if their workplace doesn’t guide them on which type of email they’re authorized to open, they will probably get hacked.

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Users should be aware of the risks of sharing personal information with someone they don’t know and be suspicious of unsolicited requests for information. If an attacker can gain a victim’s trust, they may be able to get away with anything. 

Therefore, training your staff about potential risks is essential in cybersecurity. User education should cover all security aspects, including social engineering attacks like pretexting. 

Employees should know how to spot a pretexting attempt and not to share sensitive information with anyone unless they are sure that the person is who they say they are. With proper user education, businesses can make it much harder for attackers to succeed with this attack.

Conclusion

Pretexting is a famous cyber attack in which an attacker fakes being part of the staff or a reputable client to obtain sensitive information from an employee. 

Pretexting can gather login credentials, financial information, or other types of sensitive data. Cybersecurity professionals should be aware of pretexting attacks and take steps to prevent them. 

Implementing two-factor authentication and educating employees about social engineering attacks is highly recommended.

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