Pretexting Attacks: Common Types and How to Deal with Them

The potential of cyberattacks is quite real in today's interconnected society where personal information is becoming more exposed to digitization. Pretexting has become a powerful tool among the many methods used by hackers. Pretexting is the practice of using social engineering to trick someone into disclosing private information. We will explore the concept of pretexting, look at popular pretexting assault methods, and talk about viable defenses.

What is Pretexting?

Pretexting is a type of social engineering in which a perpetrator takes a fake identity or position to influence people into disclosing sensitive information. This then begs the question, what is pretexting in cyber security? The cyberattacker earns the trust of their victims by fabricating a plausible pretext or situation, leading them to unwittingly divulge personal information like passwords, financial information, or business secrets that can be used for various cybercrimes.

Commonly Used Pretexting Attack Techniques


This method entails fooling victims into thinking you are a reliable person or representative. Attackers may assume the identities of technical support staff, customer service representatives, or even corporate officials in order to get sensitive data. For instance, they could get in touch with people while posing as bank representatives and ask for account information, passwords, or social security numbers.


By following closely behind an authorized person, the attacker is able to acquire unrestricted physical entry to a secured area. The attacker breaches security by taking advantage of people's natural propensity to hold doors open for others, perhaps gaining access to sensitive data. In firms with lax security procedures or limited employee knowledge, tailgating can be very effective.


Similar to tailgating, piggybacking is gaining someone's permission to enter a prohibited area by taking advantage of their trust or goodwill. In order to get the victim to cooperate or follow rules, the attacker may pose as an employee or delivery person. This method may be used to infiltrate workplaces, data centers, or other restricted areas where priceless information is kept.


Baiting is a hybrid of physical and digital approaches that entices victims to provide their credentials or personal information in return for an alluring offer, such as a free download. Attackers frequently disseminate harmful software and obtain sensitive data through USB devices or websites that have been hacked. They could, for instance, put infected USB sticks in public areas in the hopes that interested people will plug them into their devices, unwittingly installing malware.

Phishing and Vishing

Phishing scams use fake emails or websites that seem like actual businesses to deceive consumers into disclosing their personal information. On the other side, vishing involves voice communication and involves attackers pretending to be reputable organizations like banks or government institutions in order to get sensitive information over the phone. These methods rely on psychological trickery and a false feeling of urgency to get victims to provide their money or personal information.


By displaying fictitious security alerts or cautions that their devices are infected with malware, scareware preys on people's anxieties. Then, in the name of system security, victims are asked for personal information or asked to download dangerous software. Scareware frequently poses as trustworthy security software in order to deceive users into paying for services that are unneeded or even hazardous.


How Can You Prevent Pretexting?

While pretexting attacks can be sophisticated, several preventive measures can help safeguard personal and organizational information:

  1. Be vigilant and skeptical: Always be wary of demands for personal information that are not requested. Before disclosing sensitive information, be sure that people or organizations are legitimate. If in doubt, get in touch on your own using the company's contact details. Keep in mind that reputable businesses will never request sensitive information over the phone or by email unless the correct procedures are followed.
  2. Educate yourself and employees: To promote awareness of pretexting tactics and emphasize the need to protect personal information, hold frequent training sessions. Encourage staff to report suspicious activity and teach them to scrutinize requests for sensitive information. People may protect themselves from pretexting attacks by promoting a culture of cybersecurity awareness.
  3. Implement strong access controls: Establish rigorous guidelines for allowing people access to restricted places physically. To prevent illegal entrance, promote the use of keycards, biometrics, or other secure identification techniques. Organizations can reduce the danger of pretexting attacks, which rely on taking advantage of social norms and human trust, by restricting physical access to critical places.
  4. Utilize email and phone lookup services: Use trustworthy email lookup services or phone lookup tools to verify the validity of an email or phone call. These services give you information about the sender or caller's identity, which aids in your ability to recognize any pretexting attempts. You can prevent falling for impersonation or phishing scams by checking the reliability of communication channels.
  5. Keep software and systems up to date: To safeguard against known vulnerabilities, update operating systems, software programs, and security patches often. Attackers frequently use out-of-date software to get access without authorization or carry out destructive actions. The danger of pretexting attacks is decreased by implementing frequent updates to guarantee that your devices and systems have the most recent security upgrades.
  6. Enable multi-factor authentication: For sensitive accounts and systems, use multi-factor authentication (MFA). By demanding additional verification in addition to passwords, such as a special code given to a mobile device, MFA offers an extra layer of protection. Even if credentials are stolen, this helps prevent unauthorized access and makes it far more difficult for attackers to launch pretexting assaults.
  7. Use strong and unique passwords: Strong, complicated passwords should be used for all accounts. Do not include phrases or facts that may be easily guessed, such as birth dates. To stop a single breach from compromising many accounts, it is essential to use different passwords for each account. To securely store and create complicated passwords, think about utilizing password managers.
  8. Regularly review privacy settings: On social networking sites and other online accounts, check and modify the privacy settings. Reduce the quantity of personal data that is accessible to the public or contacts who are not necessary. You can lessen the likelihood that attackers may obtain information that can be utilized in pretexting attacks by minimizing the visibility of personal data.

Keep Yourself Safe from Pretexting Through Education and Security

Pretexting is a deceptive trick used by cybercriminals to persuade people into disclosing sensitive information. Recognizing and thwarting these risks requires an understanding of the numerous pretexting attack strategies, including impersonation, tailgating, piggybacking, baiting, phishing, vishing, and scareware. Keep in mind that combating pretexting necessitates a mix of technology protections and human attentiveness. You can safeguard yourself, your company, and your sensitive information against the always changing hazards of pretexting by being educated, following basic cybersecurity hygiene, and cultivating a culture of alertness. Keep an eye out for threats, exercise caution, and give security first priority.