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Social Engineering for Pentesters: Techniques and Strategies

Social engineering is a type of cyber attack that relies on psychological manipulation to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information or performing actions that may compromise security. It is a common technique used by pentesters, or ethical hackers, during penetration testing engagements to test the defenses of a company’s security system and identify vulnerabilities that can be exploited.

There are several techniques and strategies that pentesters may use in social engineering attacks. These include:

  1. Phishing: This involves sending fake emails or text messages that appear to be from a legitimate source in order to trick the recipient into divulging sensitive information or clicking on a malicious link.
  2. Baiting: This technique involves offering a reward or incentive in exchange for sensitive information. For example, a pentester may offer a free gift in exchange for a user’s login credentials.
  3. Pretexting: This involves using a fake identity or cover story in order to obtain sensitive information. For example, a pentester may pretend to be a new employee or a customer service representative in order to gain access to sensitive information.
  4. Scareware: This involves using fear or anxiety to trick individuals into performing actions or divulging sensitive information. For example, a pentester may send a fake message claiming that a user’s computer has been infected with a virus in order to trick them into giving out their login credentials.
  5. Physical social engineering: This involves using physical means to gain access to sensitive information or systems. For example, a pentester may impersonate a maintenance worker or delivery person in order to gain access to a secure facility or network.

Pentesters use these techniques and strategies to test the defenses of a company’s security system and identify vulnerabilities that can be exploited. By understanding and being aware of these tactics, companies can better protect themselves against social engineering attacks and improve their overall security posture.