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What is Baiting in Cybersecurity? Techniques, Examples, Protection

Social engineering is rampant these days, and cyberactors are devising more ways to lure victims into their traps. One of the most common techniques used is baiting. 

What is baiting in cybersecurity terms? Here are a couple of examples:

“Congratulations, you are a lucky winner of an iPhone 13. Click on this link to claim it.”

“Download this premium Adobe Photoshop software for $69. Offer expires in two hours.”

If you use the internet regularly, you would’ve encountered these types of messages. The best thing is not to engage it because it’s an excellent example of baiting, a form of social engineering attack that can compromise your organization’s network security.

This article discusses baiting social engineering attacks, the techniques, examples, and prevention methods. 

What is Baiting in Cybersecurity?

Unlike other types of social engineering, baiting promises an item, commodity, or reward to attract victims, infect their system with malware,  and steal their sensitive information.

This social engineering technique is highly manipulative. It usually involves tempting offers like free music or movie downloads, expensive prizes, or discounts on premium software downloads.

Baiting attacks aren’t limited to the digital world; they can also happen offline. One of the most common offline baiting attacks is via storage media like flash drives and laptops. Attackers can leave these devices in an open place for victims to use. 

In a controlled experiment, the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois, and Google found that 45%–98% of people plug in USB drives they find. 

Baiting Attack Techniques

Baiting feeds on human curiosity and greed, and cybercriminals can achieve this through different techniques. Below are the common baiting attack methods to be aware of. 

Tempting Offers

Cybercriminals find major success using tempting offers to lure victims. They send targets enticing offers via ads, social media, email, or free downloadable content. They offer their victims access to free music, movies, games, and software. These offers are usually difficult to resist. 

Malware-Infected Devices

Another way cybercriminals execute a baiting attack is through malware-infected USB devices or flash drives. They leave the device in the open such as the company lobby or reception office. Once an employee inserts the flash into their system, it automatically installs malware on the computer and infects the organization’s network. 

The attacker can also disguise themself as an employee, then plug the flash in on the targeted computer when no one is looking. 

Why is Baiting Efficient?

Baiting is efficient because it exploits human nature—natural greed or curiosity. People get excited about free stuff, discounts, and special offers, which are often too good to be true. This is how well-set baiting works. 

For an employee of a big company, being tricked by a baiting attack can cause massive problems for the entire organization. Every individual ought to learn how to recognize scammers’ tricks and protect themselves from becoming prey in a baiting attack. 

Baiting Examples 

A great way to understand how baiting works is to get familiar with the examples. This increases your chances to prevent it. Cybercriminals can execute baiting attacks in different ways, online or offline.

You may get an email or receive a text from an unknown source claiming you’ve won a lottery, and you just need to provide them with your personal information—which is exactly what cybercriminals are after. 

In some cases, an attacker can combine different tactics to execute their malicious plans. A typical example is when a cybercriminal tells their victims they missed a package delivery. In this case, attackers use digital dumpster diving to get information about your home and address. 

The attacker then visits your home to hang a door tag saying: You missed a delivery.” The tag usually has a local phone number. The natural curiosity in you will dial the number to confirm the delivery. 

Next, the person attending to you might send you a link to verify your information. While they can use the link to harvest your information, they can also upload malware on your computer.  

How to Spot Baiting

Healthy skepticism and mindfulness can forestall baiting attacks. Here are some tips to prevent it:

  • Learn to think skeptically about any offer that’s too good to be true
  • Use antivirus and anti-malware software on computers to detect malicious activity
  • Don’t use external devices before you check them for malware
  • Set up proper network security measures to stop incidents before they happen

4 Tips to Avoid Baiting in Cybersecurity

Human curiosity and greed are inevitable — we all like enticing offers and gifts. However, we should be careful to avoid becoming a victim of baiting. Organizations should implement different measures to help counter such attacks.  A successful attack can cause financial losses and reputational damages. Here are a few tips to avoid baiting in cybersecurity: 

Stay Alert

Be prudent of communications that force you to act instantly. Attackers try to instill a sense of urgency to manipulate your emotions. So slow down and think before you react or perform any action. A good example is an offer that would expire in minutes. 

Cybercriminals can share links in emails, tweets, posts, and messages to compromise systems or lure their victims into revealing sensitive information. If it looks suspicious, you probably shouldn’t engage it. 

Raise Cyberawareness of Your Employees

Ignorance increases the chances of falling prey to baiting or other social engineering attacks. It’s impossible to prevent what you’re not aware of. The best way to guard your company against baiting attacks is to educate yourself and your employees on baiting tactics and how to prevent them. 

You can do this via seminars, training, and workshops to teach employees:

  • How to recognize a legitimate warning message, alert, or deceptive email and report it to the right investigative authorities
  • What to do when they click on malicious links
  • How to maintain good password hygiene, including setting a strong password and using a unique passcode for each account 

Don’t Follow Links Blindly

When you receive a message that includes a link, double-check it before engaging it. Do you know where it’s coming from? If you don’t know where the link will direct you to, don’t click on it. 

The best practice is to hover on the link with your mouse to see where it might send you. If you doubt its legitimacy, you can use our free URL check tool.

Organized Simulated Attacks

Organizations should conduct simulated baiting and phishing attacks to know their employee’s level of awareness. You can try dropping flash drives in an open place where your employee can see them to know who’ll fall for the trap. 

In addition, organizations can simulate real-life phishing attacks to teach employees what to do in such circumstances. 

Use Antivirus Software

In some cases, cybercriminals combine baiting with a phishing attack to compromise your system and gain access to sensitive information. Installing and updating your anti-malware and antivirus software is key to preventing malware from phishing emails.

From a business perspective, if a virus spreads further and exposes personal client data or sends unsolicited emails to your contacts, your company’s reputation may be severely damaged. Prevention is better than cure, so have a system designed to prevent virus attacks.

Final Thoughts

Like other social engineering attacks, baiting is a serious issue that threatens individuals and organizations. A successful baiting attack can damage a company’s reputation, cause financial losses, or even ruin the business. 

Companies should conduct regular cybersecurity programs to teach staff how to detect and handle baiting and other social engineering attacks to mitigate such damage. Cybercriminals’ tactics are constantly evolving. So organizations need to keep open communication between the security department and employees.

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