Businesses spend a significant portion of their annual information technology budgets on high-tech computer security. But the firewalls, vaults, bunkers, locks and biometrics those dollars buy can be pierced by attackers targeting untrained, uninformed or unmonitored users.
Few companies properly address the human element of information security. "There are times when the human element is the leaky faucet" that spills sensitive information, says Debra Murphy, a consultant who is vice president of marketing for Rapid7, a Boston-based security software company that performs vulnerability assessment, network penetration and social engineering testing. One cause for the information trickle linked to employees is the pressure many are under to constantly improve customer service. "People are being measured on helping customers and providing a great customer experience," Murphy says. Social engineering scam artists, who use deceptive and manipulative tactics on individuals to gain unauthorized access to information, pounce on that customer-focused mandate.
Some of the best tools for lighting social engineering attacks are security awareness training and social engineering testing. The effectiveness of these controls will vary based on the quality of their implementation, including follow-up and retraining.
Social engineering testing, by its very nature, can be difficult to conduct without third-party assistance. One option is to engage an information security organization to conduct testing. The testing can uncover areas in which an organization is most vulnerable so that risk can be assessed and mitigation strategies can be formulated and implemented.
While prices vary, hiring an outside firm to conduct social engineering testing typically costs between $10,000 and $15,000. Rolling social engineering testing into a larger security penetration engagement can reduce the cost of the social engineering component, says Jim Patterson, director of consulting for …