Exploring Human and Environmental Factors that Make Organizations Resilient to Social Engineering Attacks

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Michelle AncherErbilcan AslanRick Van Der Kleij

Abstract: In this explorative research social engineering attacks were studied, especially the ones that failed, in order to help organisations to become more resilient. Physical, phone and digital attacks were carried out using a script following the ‘social engineering cycle’. We used the COM-B model of behaviour change, refined by the Theoretical Domains Framework, to examine by means of a survey how Capability, Motivational and foremost Opportunity factors help to increase resilience of organisations against social engineering attacks. Within Opportunity, social influence seemed of extra importance. Employees who work in small sized enterprises (<50 employees) were more successful in withstanding digital social engineering attacks than employees who work in larger organisations. An explanation for this could be a greater amount of social control; these employees work in close proximity to one another, so they are able to check irregularities or warn each other. Also, having a conversation protocol installed on how to interact with outsiders, was a measure taken by all organisations where attacks by telephone failed. Therefore, it is more difficult for an outsider to get access to the organisation by means of social engineering. This paper ends with a discussion and some recommendations for organisations, e.g. the design of the work environment, to help increase their resilience against social engineering attacks.

Keywords: Cyber Security, Human behavior, Human behavior in cyber security, Social engineering, Human elements in information security

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1002203

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