Cyber Insurance Blog

Ransomware vs. Social Engineering: What’s the Difference?

Ransomware vs. Social Engineering: What’s the Difference?

Ransomware and social engineering are both rising cyber threats in 2022. Statistics show a 13% spike in ransomware breaches, which is more than the previous five years combined. Furthermore, 25% of these breaches resulted from social engineering attacks, prompting organizations to reconsider their operational strategies and strengthen their cyber security measures.

However, because both cyber threats share some similarities, they are sometimes misidentified as the same. Let us see how they differ.

What Is Social Engineering?

Phishing scam disguised as a new COVID-19 alert.

Human error is the biggest cyber security threat. Through social engineering, cyber criminals exploit human error to expose sensitive data, collect information, spread malware, or access restricted systems. It encompasses all of the manipulation techniques that hackers use to take advantage of unsuspecting users.

Social engineering scams are based on human behavior. Once an attacker understands what motivates a user’s actions, they can deceive them effectively.

What Is a Social Engineering Attack, and How Is It Done?

Social engineering attacks often involve actual communication between a user and an attacker. An attack cycle comprises the following steps:

  1. Preparation: This includes gathering information about a user or the organization to which the user belongs.
  2. Infiltration: Attackers build trust by initiating an interaction.
  3. Exploitation: Upon gaining trust and establishing weaknesses, the attacker strikes.
  4. Disengagement: When the user has completed the intended action, the attacker stops engaging.

The entire process can take place over a few months over a series of interactions or through a single email. Ultimately, it concludes with a user’s action that compromises their information or exposes themselves to other cyber risks. Some of the most common social engineering examples are the following:

 Businessman is surprised by ransomware on his desktop computer.

  • Phishing: Attackers pretend to be an organization that a user trusts.
  • Baiting: Cyber criminals present a false promise as bait, piquing a victim’s curiosity.
  • Pretexting: Cyber criminals use false identities to lure users into exposing their data.
  • Scareware: Attackers make victims believe their device is infected with malware to lure them into malicious websites or install deceptive software.

What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware is malware that uses file encryption to restrict an individual’s or organization’s access to their data. For them to regain access, an attacker demands a ransom for the decryption key. This malware is designed to spread quickly across network systems, targeting file servers and databases. As a result, it can easily paralyze an entire organization. Industries affected most by ransomware in 2022 include education, retail, professional services, and IT.

How Dangerous Is a Ransomware Attack?

Falling victim to ransomware can significantly affect an organization’s finances and productivity. In addition, successful cyber criminals with access to sensitive data can blackmail victims, threatening to expose information.

A global research report by Cybereason revealed the true cost of ransomware to businesses. Findings show that organizations that suffered from attacks experienced loss of revenue, workforce reductions, damaged brand reputation, and even business closure. The cost of ransomware is formidable, as an incident costs companies $713,000, on average.

What Is Ransomware as a Service?

Ransomware as a service, or RaaS, is an emerging cyber security threat for organizations in 2022. Through this economic model, malware developers can earn money for their creations by selling them to non-technical attackers or offering them as a subscription-based service. This enables anyone to access a ransomware platform and operational infrastructure that can be used to infiltrate organizations.

RaaS is an established industry within the cyber crime landscape. Due to its low technical barrier of entry and lucrative nature, security experts predict this business model will flourish for years.

What Is the Relationship Between Social Engineering and Ransomware?

Despite their difference, there is a degree of crossover between social engineering and ransomware. Social engineering presents the easiest path for cyber criminals to exploit users and infect their devices with ransomware. For example, a cyber criminal can use email phishing to trick employees into clicking a malicious link that launches malware. Regardless of the technique used, social engineering can be the initial step for an attack.

ProWriters Helps Your Clients Avoid Cyber Crime

The rise of sophisticated social engineering techniques and the ever-evolving threat landscape makes cyber insurance a must for every business. In the advent of a ransomware attack, a robust cyber insurance policy can cover expenses and compensate for losses. Reach out to ProWriters today to find out how you can offer cyber policies from top carriers to your clients!

To learn more about ransomware and how your clients can protect themselves from it, download our free eBook, “Ransomware: The Front Lines.”

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