Cybercriminals turn to mind games to trick users

New research from the University of Leicester finds that cybercriminals are increasingly using psychological techniques to get victims to download malware.

Organised crime is turning to using mind games on PC users in a bid to trick them into handing over personal information and money, according to new research.

The study, carried out by Professor Clive Hollin, a forensic psychologist at the University of Leicester, found that criminals are assuming trustworthy identities and engaging in friendly banter in order to steal from their victims.

The Mind Games report, commissioned by anti-virus company McAfee, found that internet fraudsters carry out research into psychological "hotspots" and triggers of potential victims. This meant that fraudsters often piggybacked scams on top of topical news stories or current sporting events in order to make the scam appear authentic.

Also, typical emails will contain essential elements that play on and exploit the human condition. Examples cited in the research were web links that read "Click here for a reward" or "Click here to avoid something you don't want to happen".

Professor Hollin said that given the right conditions in terms of the persuasiveness of the communication and the critical combination of situational and personal factors, most people may be vulnerable to misleading information.

"This point is true both for experienced and inexperienced computer users: while naivety may be a partial explanation, even sophisticated users can be deceived and become suggestible to misleading messages," said Hollin.

According to Greg Day, security analyst at McAfee, cybercriminals are relying more and more on social engineering techniques as computer security improves.

"Like con men on the street devising new tricks, internet fraudsters need a never-ending supply of ways to exploit victims online," said Day. "Bypassing mental barriers rather than software security is an increasingly evident tactic of cybercriminals and one that will only continue become more prolific in the raft of online attacks."

Featured Resources

Virtual desktops and apps for dummies

An easy guide to virtual desktop infrastructure, end-user computing, and more

Download now

The total economic impact of optimising and managing your hybrid multi-cloud

Cost savings and business benefits of accelerating the cloud journey

Download now

A buyer’s guide for cloud-based phone solutions

Finding the right phone system for your modern business

Download now

What’s next for the education sector?

A new learning experience

Download now

Recommended

Biden calls for $22 billion in cyber security funding
Security

Biden calls for $22 billion in cyber security funding

18 May 2021
Avast’s Business Hub helps eliminate gaps in cyber defense
Security

Avast’s Business Hub helps eliminate gaps in cyber defense

18 May 2021
NETSCOUT threat intelligence report
Whitepaper

NETSCOUT threat intelligence report

18 May 2021
Defend your organisation from evolving ransomware attacks
ransomware

Defend your organisation from evolving ransomware attacks

18 May 2021

Most Popular

KPMG offers staff 'four-day fortnight' in hybrid work plans
flexible working

KPMG offers staff 'four-day fortnight' in hybrid work plans

6 May 2021
Hackers use open source Microsoft dev platform to deliver trojans
Security

Hackers use open source Microsoft dev platform to deliver trojans

14 May 2021
How to move Windows 10 from your old hard drive to SSD
operating systems

How to move Windows 10 from your old hard drive to SSD

30 Apr 2021