CYE Insights

The Growing Threat of Cyberattacks and Social Engineering

February 21, 2024

The Growing Threat of Cyberattacks and Social Engineering

In an increasingly digital world, organizations face a growing threat: cyber incidents involving the theft of money through a combination of cyberattacks and social engineering. This exploits both technical vulnerabilities and human psychology, making it a challenge for businesses to defend against. This article delves into the intricacies of such incidents, examining their modus operandi, impact, and proactive measures that organizations can take to avoid them.

Real-World Example of a Cyberattack with Social Engineering

In many cases, such an incident is discovered when a vendor claims they haven’t received payment for their services. In one case, a company conducted a brief internal review. This led to the suspicion of potential mail fraud. An extensive investigation ensued, involving threat hunting and a darknet inquiry, aiming to ascertain the extent of the breach and its origin and to effectively block further access by the attacker.

A scrutiny of mailboxes owned by high-ranking employees with funds transfer authority uncovered several suspicious activities emanating from a specific mailbox. Subsequent probing identified several suspicious IP addresses that accessed files in the secretary’s SharePoint within the same timeframe. It is our belief that the attacker, who possessed login credentials, may also have had access to other available resources. A closer examination of these connections revealed unusual activity originating from Nigeria and Mexico.

The Anatomy of the Threat

Cyber incidents involving financial theft from organizations often begin with the exploitation of technological vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals may infiltrate an organization’s network through various means, including phishing attacks, malware injections, or exploiting unpatched software. Once inside, they seek to locate and exploit financial systems, gain unauthorized access to accounts, or manipulate transaction records.

However, what sets these incidents apart is the integration of social engineering techniques. This involves manipulating individuals within the organization to facilitate or overlook fraudulent activities. These techniques range from impersonation to psychological manipulation, leveraging trust and authority to gain access to sensitive information or systems.

Types of Social Engineering Exploits


This remains one of the most prevalent social engineering tactics. Attackers send deceptive emails, masquerading as legitimate entities, to trick employees into revealing confidential information or click on malicious links.


A more elaborate form of manipulation where the attacker creates a fabricated scenario to extract information. For example, posing as a co-worker or vendor to elicit sensitive data.

Tailgating and Piggybacking

This physical form of social engineering involves gaining unauthorized access to restricted areas by exploiting human courtesy or trust. An attacker may simply follow an authorized individual into a secure area.


Attackers may impersonate executives, IT personnel, or trusted vendors to bypass security protocols, gain access to sensitive systems, or authorize fraudulent transactions.

Impact on Organizations

The consequences of successful cyber-social engineering incidents can be devastating for organizations. Apart from direct financial losses, organizations face a loss of reputation, diminished customer trust, and potential legal repercussions. The ripple effects extend to disrupted operations, regulatory fines, and increased cybersecurity expenditures.

Preventive Measures and Mitigation Strategies

Education and Training

Providing comprehensive cybersecurity training to employees is paramount. They should be able to recognize and report suspicious activities, especially in emails or communications requesting sensitive information.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Implementing MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring multiple forms of authentication, reducing the likelihood of unauthorized access even if login credentials are compromised.

Access Controls and Segmentation

Limiting access to sensitive systems and information on a need-to-know basis can minimize the damage potential of an insider threat or compromised account.

Incident Response Plans

Organizations must develop and regularly update incident response plans to ensure swift and effective action in the event of a breach. This includes protocols for communication, containment, eradication, recovery, and lessons learned.


The convergence of cyber and social engineering techniques in the theft of organizational funds represents a critical challenge in the modern threat landscape. By understanding the tactics employed and implementing robust cybersecurity measures alongside comprehensive employee training, organizations can fortify their defenses against these insidious attacks. Vigilance, education, and technological safeguards are the pillars upon which organizations can stand strong against this evolving threat.

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Elad Leon

By Elad Leon

Elad Leon is Senior CTI Expert at CYE. He is a reserve major in the Israel Defense Forces and has more than a decade's experience working in the defense and intelligence community. He specializes in strategic analysis, operations management, and threat actor engagement.