Human Hacking: A Cybercriminal’s Chess Game
When we think about cybersecurity, our minds typically jump to the concept of malicious software or viruses infiltrating our devices. But what if the danger doesn’t come from rogue code, but from manipulating the people who use these devices? This technique is known as ‘human hacking’ is also known by the term ‘social engineering’, and it’s rising at an alarming rate.
Human hacking leverages psychological manipulation instead of technological expertise. Here, criminals don’t break computer codes; they break human trust. They prey on natural human instincts—curiosity, trust, greed, or fear—to trick individuals into disclosing confidential data or providing unauthorized access to secure systems.
Using psychology, cybercriminals use tactics to:
- Gain your trust
- Manipulate your emotions
- Persuade you into doing something
Sacrifice the Queen: The Rise of Human Hacking
There’s been an alarming rise in human hacking incidents, including the ones shared in this piece, Financial Fraud and the Art of Deception. But why are cybercriminals hacking the human and not the computer? The fact is as technology has improved, our cybersecurity measures have too! So while have antivirus software, firewalls, and password managers have evolved to fend off malicious software, they cannot protect against human vulnerability – and cybercriminals aim to exploit that.
Checkmate: The Latest Human Hacks
To understand human hacking better, we’ll highlight some of the latest scams we’ve seen:
- Quack QR Codes – Criminals have started replacing legitimate QR codes with their own, leading unsuspecting users to harmful websites that steal personal information or install malware. From restaurant menus to parking meters in San Francisco, these seemingly harmless codes have turned into digital traps. Be super cautious about scanning QR codes in public spaces.
- AI(n’t) Your Voice – The utilization of AI technology has amplified the effectiveness of vishing (voice) campaigns, allowing malicious actors to capture voice recordings of individuals and then generate highly convincing fake recordings. Human hackers are now able to make convincing CEO/children/grandchildren pleas to spur people into action.
- It’s important to be vigilant and cautious when receiving unexpected requests for sensitive information or financial transactions, especially if they are communicated through unconventional channels. Verifying the identity of the person making the request through trusted means, such as contacting them directly through established communication channels, can help mitigate the risk of falling victim to such scams.
- Socia-don’t – Too Good to Be True – Cybercriminals have achieved success in hacking the human by impersonating new or existing connections in order to gain control of social media accounts – including influencers. Be wary if your established connections have “moving sales” on social media – contact them in another method before buying their couch. Also be wary if your favorite social media influencer starts offering something too good to be true. Cybercriminals will count on you trusting them – because don’t you trust your friend/family/favorite influencer?
Human hacking is a growing concern that exploits our psychological tendencies rather than technological weaknesses. It’s crucial to stay vigilant, always question unexpected requests, and adopt a healthy dose of skepticism to stay safe. For more tips and tricks to stay safe, see Financial Fraud and the Art of Deception.