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A Cautionary Tale of Social Engineering and LinkedIn


Reports surfaced last week that over a four-month period in late 2019, at least two European aerospace and defense firms were targeted and compromised via LinkedIn by an unknown advanced persistent threat (“APT”) actor with the primary intent to conduct espionage operations. Why should we care here at UTHSC? Because we are a prime target for social engineering attacks.

The attacks are notable for the usage of LinkedIn as the means to social engineer a foothold in the targeted entities’ networks. Researchers from ESET documented their findings in a 28-page report which comprehensively analyzes the attack and is freely available for review at https://www.welivesecurity.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/ESET_Operation_Interception.pdf.

Social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, allows scammers to quickly find people worth targeting in different organizations. 

Here at UTHSC, we are the trifecta of highly targeted industries; government, financial services (aid) and healthcare. 

Most recently, any organization that is helping or researching COVID-19 is at high risk of being targeted by nation-state supported activities.

What are the risks?

  • Institutional integrity and reputation
  • Personal integrity and reputation 
  • Targeting personal accounts such as banking or financial accounts
These criminals have taken to exploiting normal human behavior online vs. the tactics used before technology, but they are still just scams. 

To mitigate these risks, we need to be very aware of social engineering attacks and phishing attempts. As this article shows, not every attack is in the form of an email. 

If you have any questions about any correspondence received as a representative of UTHSC, contact the Office of Cybersecurity at itsecurity@uthsc.edu or 901.448.1880 for a consultation. 

Stay safe!