The person or group behind the act will commonly use social pressure, deception or threats to influence a person into doing something against their interests.

Social engineering is not hacking. Hacking involves the use of computer technologies to gain unauthorised access to systems and networks. Students sometimes use the term ‘hacking’ when in fact they have shared their password.

Why is social engineering an issue?

Social engineering can be used to steal identities, violate people’s privacy and to obtain ‘high-value’ information, such as intimate images. This type of cyber-threat can be subtle, and may appear as a simple request to help a friend. Spotting social engineering attempts can be challenging.

How to protect yourself against social engineering

You can decrease your chances of social engineering by using these precautions:

  • Set strong passwords and PINs for all devices and accounts – see more information on setting effective passwords
  • Use two-factor authentication to secure all online accounts
  • Never give out confidential information (even to friends) – this includes passwords and PINs
  • Treat unsolicited emails with scepticism
  • Review account activity regularly – most social networking sites and apps allow users to see where they’re logged in and what apps or tools are connected.

What to do if your social media account is compromised

If you’ve been the target of social engineering, and your account or images have been accessed without your permission, follow these steps:

  1. Report what’s happened to the social media service it occurred on.
  2. If the issue is not resolved within 48 hours, and it involves:
  • cyberbullying targeted at a young person under 18, or
  • intimate images/videos shared without your consent you can report it to us.

We encourage young people experiencing cyberbullying and related issues to contact the Kids Helpline. Their counsellors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, free of charge. Counsellors can also chat online at Kids Helpline.

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