Social Engineering: How Psychological Manipulation Exploits Online Behavior

ocial Engineering: How Psychological Manipulation Exploits Online Behavior

Social engineering has become a powerful technique for controlling behavior to get something out of someone. Cybercriminals, scammers, and predators all have their individual motives for taking advantage of a vulnerable person. It may be online or through a text or phone scam, or in in person when trust is falsely built up.

Social engineering is defined as the practice of using basic psychological traits of people to manipulate, trick, and take advantage of them often with malicious intentions. Usually, the perpetrator is attempting to gather personal information that someone would not normally give up. Or it may be as simple as building trust to get them to click a link.

The subject matter explores the complexities of social engineering and reveals the strategies employed that are deigned to take advantage of the weaknesses in natural human insecurities.

What is Psychological Manipulation?

A form of social influence known as psychological manipulation uses forceful, dishonest, or abusive methods to alter the behavior or perception of others.

Such tactics could be viewed as exploitative, abusive, clever, and dishonest since they advance the manipulator’s objectives, usually at the expense of another.

Negative social influence is not always the case. For instance, friends, relatives, and medical professionals can attempt to influence someone to modify harmful habits and behaviors.

Following are a few instances of effective manipulation:

  • Making aggressive intentions and actions hidden.
  • Finding out the victim’s psychological weaknesses can help you decide which strategies will most likely work.
  • Causing harm or inconvenience by manipulating or destroying data is known as Sabotage.
  • Possessing enough ruthlessness that, in an emergency, one would not hesitate to harm the victim.
  • Theft: Acquiring goods such as cash, access, or knowledge.

By understanding social engineering’s precise mechanism, this term can be further developed.

Characteristics of Attacks Using Social Engineering

Characteristics of Attacks Using Social Engineering

The use of confidence and persuasion by the attacker is the main focus of social engineering attacks. You are more likely to act out when exposed to these strategies than when not.

The majority of attacks will trick you into doing any of the following:

Elevated Emotions

Attackers get the upper hand in every interaction when they manipulate others’ emotions.

Experiencing heightened emotions can sometimes lead to impulsive behavior, which may indicate an underlying anxiety disorder.

We employ each of the following feelings in equal amounts to persuade you.

  • Anxiety
  • Curiosity
  • Anger
  • Shame
  • Sadness


Another effective weapon in an attacker’s bag is a time-sensitive opportunity or request. Under the pretense that there is a severe issue that requires a quick response, you can be convinced to compromise.

On the other hand, you can be presented with a prize or a reason that, if you don’t take immediate action, might disappear. Either strategy exceeds your capacity for critical thought.


The ability to be believed in is crucial to the success of a social engineering scheme. Here confidence is key because, in the end, this is a lie from the opponent.

They have gathered enough information about you to be able to tell a story that will be both plausible and unlikely to raise red flags.

What Tactics Are Used by Cybercriminals and Scammers to Manipulate People?

Social engineering is used in almost all forms of cybersecurity attacks. For instance, there are many social effects of traditional email and virus fraud.

Social engineering assaults can affect your digital life not just on desktop computers but also on mobile devices.

On the other hand, you could just as easily encounter a threat in person. A scam can be created by layering and overlapping these attacks.

Here are some typical techniques employed by attackers who use social engineering:

Phishing Attacks

Attackers using phishing techniques act as reputable organizations or people to trick you into disclosing personal information and other assets.

  • Mass phishing, often known as spam phishing, is an attack that targets a large number of users. These attacks aim to capture any unwary individual and are not individualized.
  • Spear phishing, and whaling by extension, target specific users with specific information. top-value targets, such as celebrities, senior management, and top government figures, are the explicit targets of whaling attacks.

Attacks Using Bait

Baiting takes advantage of your innate curiosity to trick you into opening up to a potential attacker. Usually, the trick to take advantage of you is the possibility of something special or free. Usually, the attack entails getting malware on you.

Common techniques for luring someone in include:

  • USB drives are left in parking lots libraries and other public areas.
  • email attachments containing information about a scam or fake free software.

Physical Breach Attacks

Physical breaches occur when attackers physically show up and assume the identity of a real individual to access places or data that would otherwise be off-limits.

These kinds of attacks are more frequent in enterprise settings, such as those found in enterprises, governments, and other organizations.

Attackers might pose as a representative of a reputable vendor for the business. Some of the attackers may be ex-employees with a grudge against their previous employer.

They conceal their identities while maintaining enough credibility to allay suspicions. This is high-risk and necessitates some investigation on the part of the attacker.

Pretext Attacks

Pretexting is the practice of using a false identity as the “pretext” to build trust. Examples of this include directly posing as a facility employee or a vendor.

This strategy necessitates more aggressive communication from the attacker. Once they’ve persuaded you that they are genuine, the exploit begins.

Worm Attacks

The goal of the cybercriminal is to draw the user’s attention to the malicious file or link so they will click on it.

Here are some instances of this kind of attack:

The LoveLetter worm, which in 2000 crashed email servers at numerous businesses. An email inviting victims to read the love note attached was sent to them.

The worm spread to every contact in the victim’s address book when they opened the connected file. In terms of the financial harm it caused, this worm is still considered to be among the worst.

In January 2004, the Mydoom email worm made its appearance on the Internet by using texts that imitated mail server technical notifications.

How Might this Affect Adults and Children?

Effect on Adults

Constant manipulation can cause stress, low self-esteem, problems with trust, poor judgment, losses of money, and trouble setting limits.

Effect on Children

Emotional instability, a distorted sense of oneself, developmental delays, academic challenges, and long-term effects that persist into adulthood are all possible outcomes of manipulation.

In What Ways Do Social Engineering Attacks Target Children?

With the internet at their fingertips, today’s Children are more inclined to turn to social media for entertainment. Cybercriminals keep a close eye on this trend.

They will unavoidably become prone to the numerous scams that are linked to social media (as well as other risks, such as cyberbullying and predators).

Social engineering attacks can profoundly impact children’s emotional well-being, leaving them grappling with insecurity and striving to regain a sense of security.

How to Prevent Manipulation and Avoid Social Engineering Attacks

How to Prevent Manipulation and Avoid Social Engineering Attacks

Because social engineering attacks specifically target human qualities like curiosity, deference to authority, and the desire to support friends.

They are very challenging to defend. Several guidelines can be used to identify social engineering attempts.

Education and Awareness

Invest in comprehensive security awareness training programs to educate individuals about common social engineering tactics, red flags to watch out for, and best practices for protecting sensitive information.

Interrupt the Cycle

A feeling of urgency is often necessary for social engineering. Attackers hope that their targets won’t give it much thought.

Thus, merely pausing to reflect can prevent these attempts or expose them to the forgeries that they are.

Rather than providing personal information over the phone or by clicking on a link, call the official number or visit the official website. Check the reliability of the source by communicating with them via a separate channel.

Verify the source

Checking the source is not hard. Examine the email header, for example, and compare it to other legitimate emails sent by the same sender.

Examine the links Phased hyperlinks may be easily identified by simply holding your cursor over them. Don’t open the link.

Verify the spelling, financial institutions employ entire teams of skilled individuals specifically to create correspondence for their clients; therefore, an email including obvious typos is most likely a fake.

If you’re unsure if an email or message is authentic or fraudulent, visit the official website and speak with an official person.

Request Identification.

One of the simplest social engineering scams involves getting past security and entering a business with a heavy box or a bunch of documents in your arms.

Ultimately, assisting somebody will hold the door open. Be not fooled by this. Request identification at all times.

The same holds for various approaches. One of the first things you should do when someone calls you for information is to find out their name and phone number.


Understanding social engineering techniques and psychology is crucial in today’s digital environment to protect against cyberattacks.

Cybercriminals use deception to take advantage of human weaknesses, which emphasizes the significance of always being vigilant.

Social engineers use fear, curiosity, and trust to trick people and organizations, so it’s important to constantly be aware of new threats and keep informed.

Through emphasizing education, keeping up with security updates, and cultivating cybersecurity awareness, we may work together to fortify the digital ecosystem and ward off social engineering schemes.

Although people may find it difficult especially children to cope with anxiety brought on by social engineering attacks, ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy is a useful solution to help anxiety, especially for the young ones.

Individuals who receive ABA therapy are better able to think critically, identify dishonest behavior, and become resilient to manipulative techniques.

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