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Role of Social Engineering in Penetration Testing

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Penetration testing is an attempt to evaluate the degree of security of IT or any functioning infrastructure by attacking it from various aspects. There could be many vulnerabilities in an IT system which could be exploited to perform unauthorized actions on the system. That is why penetration testing is done on the system beforehand to make it immune to those attacks. But then also, there is the issue of ensuring that the human element of the infrastructure do not compromise the security by leaking out confidential information out to evil intended people such as hackers or rival organizations. This loose point of any infrastructure is exploited using the means of social engineering.

Since, it is the act of manipulating or tricking people to undertake actions knowingly or unknowingly as well as against their will to make them give up any kind of confidential information, hackers can easily get the information. Social engineering can be done using many methods such as emails, telephone, SMS, fake websites or links and even face to face. There are various social engineering techniques that uses aforementioned methods to attack and exploit. Attackers can use several human or technical means from Phishing to dumpster diving as tactics to get hands on confidential data. For successful attacks these techniques and methods work in synergy to obtain ample information on individuals or organizations.

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There are 4 steps in any social engineering attack:

  1. Information gathering that is studying and gaining information about the target.
  2. Developing relationship to gain their trust.
  3. Exploiting and gaining access to the systems.
  4. Execution, the final step where the attack is implemented

There are many live examples of attacks which uses social engineering on their targets to lay down a successful attack. One of those attacks include Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF). Cross-Site Request Forgery is an attack that forces a web application user to execute unwanted actions on a web application in which they are currently authenticated. CSRF attacks specifically target state changing requests. social engineering comes into play here by sending the victim a malicious link via email or chat by which the attacker can trick the user of the web application in executing actions of attacker’s intent. For a normal victim, this attack can force the user to perform state-changing requests like transferring funds or changing their email address, passwords etc. If the victim is an administrative account, CSRF can compromise the entire web application. Other attacks that use social engineering techniques or penetration testing techniques such as SQL Injection, Cache Poisoning, Man-in-The-Browser Attack, etc.

In conclusion, we can say that because of the different personality traits that different individuals possess, it is almost impossible to fully protect organizations against social engineering attacks. As the most vulnerable connection of the security the infrastructure forefront, social engineering interruptions that are activated by human components can’t be just moderated through a general solution which is mostly clear against programming or equipment glitches.

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Role of Social Engineering in Penetration Testing. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 30, 2023, from
“Role of Social Engineering in Penetration Testing.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
Role of Social Engineering in Penetration Testing. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 Sept. 2023].
Role of Social Engineering in Penetration Testing [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2023 Sept 30]. Available from:
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