Understanding Common Attacks

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Social engineering attacks can occur in person, over the phone, while surfing the Internet, and via email. If you’re planning on taking the Security+ exam, you should have a good understanding of the common attacks.

For example, can you answer this question?

Q. A security administrator at a shopping mall discovered two wireless cameras pointing at an automatic teller machine. These cameras were not installed by mall personnel and are not authorized. What is the MOST likely goal of these cameras?

A. Tailgating

B. Dumpster diving

C. Vishing

D. Shoulder surfing

More, do you know why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answers are incorrect? The answer and explanation is available at the end of this post.

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It’s important to understand some  common attacks. Social engineering includes several techniques attackers use to trick users. Additionally, many attackers use email, instant messaging, and the phone to deliver attacks.

Impersonating

Some social engineers often attempt to impersonate others. The goal is to convince an authorized user to provide some information, or help the attacker defeat a security control.

As an example, an attacker can impersonate a repair technician to gain access to a server room or telecommunications closet. After gaining access, the attacker can install hardware such as a rogue access point to capture data and send it wirelessly to an outside collection point. Identity verification methods are useful to prevent the success of impersonation attacks. Similarly, attackers impersonate legitimate organizations over the phone and try to gain information.

Shoulder Surfing

Shoulder surfing is simply looking over the shoulder of someone to gain information. The goal is to gain unauthorized information by casual observation, and it’s likely to occur within an office environment. This can be to learn credentials, such as a username and password, or a PIN used for a smart card or debit card. Recently, attackers have been using cameras to monitor locations where users enter PINs, such as at automatic teller machines (ATMs).

Common Attacks

A simple way to prevent shoulder surfing is to position monitors and other types of screens so that unauthorized personnel cannot see them. This includes ensuring people can’t view them by looking through a window or from reception areas.

Remember this

A social engineer can gain unauthorized information just by looking over someone’s shoulder. This might be in person, such as when a user is at a computer, or remotely using a camera.

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Additional Security+ questions to help you prepare for the new performance based questions. These are included with the full bank of Security+ practice test questions and are divided into different sections. For example, you'll have access to the following links:

- Performance Based Question - Set 1

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match different types of security to mobile devices and servers in a data center. You'll then have two questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 2

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match different types of attacks with the name of the attack type. You'll then have five questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

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You'll see a graphic showing a network with computers and servers separated by a firewall. The firewall is used to control traffic between the computers and users using rules within an access control list (ACL).  You'll have three questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly identify the relevant components of the rule. The incorrect answers and explanation provide you with insight into how to correctly answer this type of question on the actual exam.

- Performance Based Question - Set 4

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam related to what a forensic analyst would do during an investigation. You'll then have two questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

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You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match protocols and ports. You'll then have seven questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 6

You'll see a list of security controls along with a graphic showing devices and locations within an organization, along with instructions on what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match the controls with the devices and locations. You'll then have four questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 7

You'll see a list of authentication methods and authentication factors along with instructions on what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match the authentication methods with the authentication factors. You'll then have six questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This set also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 8

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match different types of attacks with the name of the attack type. You'll then have five questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This is similar to Set 2 but expands on the possibilities. The set also includes a link to a page showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

New - Performance Based Question - Set 9

New questions recently added using a different testing engine. See a demo here. This set includes drag and drop and matching questions on ports.

New - Performance Based Question - Set 10

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Tricking Users with Hoaxes

A hoax is a message, often circulated through email, that tells of impending doom from a virus or other security threat that simply doesn’t exist. Users may be encouraged to delete files or change their system configuration.

An older example is the teddy bear virus (jdbgmgr.exe), which was not a virus at all. Victims received an email saying this virus lies in a sleeping state for 14 days and then it will destroy the user’s system. It then told users that they can protect their system by deleting the file (which has an icon of a little bear), and provided instructions on how to do so. Users who deleted the file lost some system capability.

More serious virus hoaxes have the potential to be as damaging as a real virus. If users are convinced to delete important files, they may make their systems unusable. Additionally, they waste help-desk personnel’s time due to needless calls about the hoax or support calls if users damaged their systems in response to the hoax.


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Q. A security administrator at a shopping mall discovered two wireless cameras pointing at an automatic teller machine. These cameras were not installed by mall personnel and are not authorized. What is the MOST likely goal of these cameras?

A. Tailgating

B. Dumpster diving

C. Vishing

D. Shoulder surfing

Answer is D. Shoulder surfing is the practice of peering over a person’s shoulder to discover information. In this scenario, the attacker is using the wireless cameras to discover PINs as users enter them.

Tailgating is the practice of following closely behind someone else without using credentials.

Dumpster diving is the practice of searching trash dumpsters for information.

Vishing is a form of phishing using the phone.

See Chapter 6 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide for more information on malware and social engineering.

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