An Overview Of Shoulder Surfing In Cybersecurity
By Tom Seest
At BestCybersecurityNews, we help young learners and seniors learn more about cybersecurity.
Shoulder surfing may sound like something out of a thriller novel, but it is very real and poses an existential threat to cyber security. Shoulder surfing occurs when an attacker monitors another’s screen and keyboard from close or long range in order to access passwords and other sensitive data without their knowledge.
They might use video cameras and binoculars or simply watch over your shoulder while entering data or conducting transactions – this information could then be used for fraud, identity theft, and other crimes.
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Most people associate cybercrime with sophisticated techies who access computers remotely to gain passwords and credit card numbers from users, but that isn’t the only danger to your privacy; criminals could potentially acquire your personal identification information (PII) by simply looking over your shoulder – a practice known as shoulder surfing which has become one of the most frequently employed cyberattack techniques.
Shoulder surfers are adept at stealing your PII and using it to gain entry into your online accounts and bank account – which in turn can result in financial loss. According to Javelin Strategy & Research’s 2022 Identity Fraud Study, traditional identity fraud losses totaled $24 billion across 15 million consumers impacted. Shoulder surfing attacks can easily access this sensitive data – therefore taking preventative steps against this cyberattack should be of utmost priority.
Shoulder surfers can gain your personal and sensitive information (PII) through several obvious means, including watching or listening in as you type an OTP on your phone or enter your PIN at a POS terminal, as well as more sophisticated techniques like binoculars or drones to spy from a distance and exploiting unsecure Wi-Fi networks to intercept data. In certain instances, shoulder surfers have even been known to exploit public Wi-Fi networks to gain entry and extract your PII.
Shoulder surfers are an ever-present risk, so to protect your privacy you can only access confidential online accounts when alone at home or in a private office and out of their view. Furthermore, installing a privacy screen onto your monitor makes it harder for attackers to look over your shoulder and see what you are doing.
Option 2 is to implement two-factor authentication (2FA). Doing this makes it much harder for attackers to gain access to your online accounts even if they manage to obtain your personal information via shoulder surfers; in order to enable 2FA, another form of verification such as text message verification code sent directly to your phone or biometric retina scan will need to be provided, making accessing them much more challenging for intruders.
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Shoulder surfing is an age-old practice that predates laptops and smartphones. Criminals used it back when pay phones existed so they could steal phone card numbers by watching people use pay phones – today threat actors use cameras and binoculars to gain an image of what the victim enters into his or her screen and shoulder surf remotely.
People using their smartphone or laptop to log into their bank accounts while riding the subway or working at an airport lounge don’t typically consider that someone may be peeking over their shoulders to monitor what is being typed onto the screen. Although it is considered impolite and illegal to look over someone’s shoulder without their permission, some do it anyway.
Shoulder surfing can have serious repercussions. Once a criminal obtains enough personal data on a victim, they could use their identity to fraudulently take out loans in their name or use their credit card for fraudulent purchases – this can put their financial life and legal life in peril and leave them vulnerable for years.
Though it may not always be possible, planning ahead and using sensitive accounts on smart devices in public places can help avoid using sensitive ones in public. Planning activities like checking bank balance for when you are alone at home and out of sight of others is another useful strategy. Also remember to enable 2-factor authentication (2FA), as this protects against anyone accessing your account without your device having your password.
Employing a privacy screen on your device is also useful when attempting to reduce shoulder surfing. These screens are designed to limit viewing angles and can keep your screen private when working or signing into accounts in public spaces.
Finally, contactless payment methods are always better options when in public than debit or credit cards because they prevent criminals from seeing your PIN and can offer increased protection from shoulder surfing.
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Shoulder surfing is a low-tech hacking method where criminals target device screens and keypads to gain personal information that can be used for account takeover and identity theft. Information captured could include names, addresses, credit card numbers, PINs and passwords that were entered into instant messaging apps or chat windows as well as sensitive data entered via instant messenger applications or chat windows.
Shoulder surfing attacks involve an attacker standing directly in front of you at a cashier window or sitting behind you on public transit such as trains or buses. With binoculars, video cameras or even just your phone’s earpiece they could listen to or view your device screen as you enter vital data such as PINs and passwords into it.
An additional way for criminals to gain access to someone’s sensitive data is via public Wi-Fi networks in cafes, airports and other public areas unsecured Wi-Fi services such as this one in order to conduct man-in-the-middle attacks – this enables criminals to intercept a connection and read its contents – including usernames and passwords of anyone connected with it.
Criminals could use stolen identities to make purchases without permission, open new accounts and apply for government benefits in their name without their knowledge or approval – making reclaiming your identity even harder than before!
Shoulder surfing can lead to identity theft. Criminals could use your personal data to open new bank accounts and loans on your behalf or even take money directly out of your wallet – creating an expensive and time-consuming situation that needs resolving quickly.
There are various steps that people can take to prevent shoulder surfing, starting with maintaining an elevated state of situation awareness. Always remain conscious of who’s around you, and be ready to shift or adjust yourself if someone stares unflinchingly at your device; this can block their view and help lower risk. Similarly, using privacy filters on laptops may also help ward off attackers; these plastic sheets reduce viewing angles so no one can easily see its screen.
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Most people imagine cybercriminals to be hackers with access to business systems who remotely hack them in order to steal sensitive data, but most cyberattacks begin much simpler – often by someone simply peering over someone’s shoulder and spying on what is shown on their computer or mobile phone screen.
Shoulder surfing, or social engineering, is a social engineering technique used by attackers to steal passwords and account information without their victims knowing. Criminals can then read private messages as well as see bank and other confidential data without them even realizing. With this data in hand, attackers can then sell it on the Dark Web or use it for fraudulent activities like credit card theft.
Shoulder surfing can be a very dangerous form of fraud that can cause devastating financial loss and irreparable harm to an individual’s identity. Yet it can be avoided, with victims taking steps to protect themselves against such threats.
Avoid public spaces where there is a high likelihood of shoulder surf attacks, such as shopping malls, ATMs and supermarket payment kiosks where personal and confidential data are entered on devices. Furthermore, set your device security settings high to prevent attackers from accessing it or watching your screen.
Finally, it is essential that your smartphone or laptop feature a privacy shield. Such shields make it harder for shoulder surfers to see what you are doing on either device or typing on keyboard; although this won’t prevent an attacker from listening in on conversations or stealing information directly.
Shoulder Surfing If you find yourself the victim of shoulder surfing, it is imperative that you report it immediately to your bank and all three major credit bureaus so as to prevent criminals from opening new accounts in your name. Furthermore, many companies offer trusted identity theft protection services which can assist in recovering and safeguarding financial assets.
This photo was taken by Zen Chung and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/young-asian-woman-surfing-smartphone-while-working-on-project-at-home-5538624/.
Please share this post with your friends, family, or business associates who may encounter cybersecurity attacks.