10 Oct Quid Pro Quo in Social Engineering
Most people are familiar with the phrase “quid pro quo” from its use in business deals or other transactions. In general terms, it means exchanging one thing for another of equal value.
But the term can also be used to describe a type of social engineering attack in which cyber criminals attempt to trick victims into giving up sensitive information or access to systems in exchange for something of value.
What is a quid pro quo cyber attack?
Quid pro quo attacks are often used by attackers who have already gained some level of access to a target organization’s network. They will use this access to collect information about the organization and its employees in order to identify potential targets for their attack.
Once they have identified a target, the attacker will reach out to them via email, instant message, or some other form of communication and offer to provide something of value in exchange for access to the target’s system or sensitive information.
The offer may be something as simple as a free gift or an enticing piece of malware that the attacker claims will improve the target’s system performance.
In other cases, the offer may be more directly related to the target’s work, such as access to a premium research paper or early access to a new software release.
Regardless of the specific offer, the goal of the attacker is always the same: to get the target to provide them with access to sensitive information or systems.
Identifying Quid Pro Quo Attacks
Quid pro quo attacks can be difficult to detect because they often involve legitimate offers of value. This makes it important for organizations to educate their employees about the risks of such attacks and what to look for.
Some common signs that an offer may be part of a quid pro quo attack include:
- The offer is too good to be true
- The offer is unsolicited
- The offeror asks for personal information in exchange for the offer
- The offeror is vague about what they are offering or how it will be delivered
If you receive an offer that meets any of these criteria, it’s important to exercise caution and to verify the offeror’s identity and motives before responding.
Quid Pro Quo Social Engineering Prevention
Organizations can also help protect themselves from quid pro quo attacks by implementing security controls that limit access to sensitive information and systems.
For example, they can require employees to use strong passwords and two-factor authentication to access sensitive data. They can also segment their network to limit the spread of an attacker’s access if they do gain initial entry.
Quid pro quo attacks are a type of social engineering attack that can be difficult to detect and prevent. However, by educating employees about the risks involved and implementing security controls to limit access to sensitive data, organizations can help protect themselves from these attacks.
Read our detailed guide for more information on how to prevent social engineering in the workplace.