Social engineering is one of the most prolific and effective means of gaining access to secure systems and obtaining sensitive information, yet requires minimal technical knowledge. Attacks vary from bulk phishing emails with little sophistication through to highly targeted, multi-layered attacks which use a range of social engineering techniques. Social engineering works by manipulating normal human behavioural traits and as such there are only limited technical solutions to guard against it. As a result, the best defense is to educate users on the techniques used by social engineers, and raising awareness as to how both humans and computer systems can be manipulated to create a false level of trust.
This can be complemented by an organisational attitude towards security that promotes the sharing of concerns, enforces information security rules and supports users for adhering to them. Even so, a determined attacker with sufficient skill, resources and ultimately, luck, will be able to retrieve the information they are seeking. For this reason, organisations and individuals should have measures in place to respond to, and recover from, a successful attack.