social engineering(sō ´sh&l en´´j&-nēr´ing) (n.) In the realm of computers, the act of obtaining or attempting to obtain otherwise secure data by conning an individual into revealing secure information. Social engineering is successful because its victims innately want to trust other people and are naturally helpful. The victims of social engineering are tricked into releasing information that they do not realize will be used to attack a computer network. For example, an employee in an enterprise may be tricked into revealing an employee identification number to someone who is pretending to be someone he trusts or representing someone he trusts. While that employee number may not seem valuable to the employee, which makes it easier for him to reveal the information in the first place, the social engineer can use that employee number in conjunction with other information that has been gathered to get closer to finding a way into the enterprise��s network.
Phishing is a type of security attack that relies on social engineering in that it lures the victim into revealing information based on the human tendency to believe in the security of a brand name because they associate the brand name with trustworthiness.