Cyber Security
Social Engineering Pentests

What Is Social Engineering Penetration Testing?

Nowadays, the biggest security threat businesses are facing is social engineering. Therefore, a social engineering penetration test should be performed to counter this issue. Although there are various methods for penetration testing, in this article, our focus will be on social engineering penetration testing. It can help an organization’s employees to understand where the threat lies. 

What Is Social Engineering in Penetration Testing?

Social engineering is a cyber security threat, and many businesses are prone to it. Cybercriminals are using different methods of social engineering to generate revenue. Many incidents in organizations are successful because of human errors. Therefore, social engineering in penetration testing is crucial for almost all businesses. 

Social engineering pen tests focus on processes and people to find associated vulnerabilities. Ethical hackers conduct social engineering attacks like impersonation, phishing, email phishing, and USB drops. So, a person can face all these situations during work. The main goal of this engineering penetration testing is to find weaknesses in processes and people to identify vulnerabilities and fix them. 

Why Should You Perform a Social Engineering Test?

Attackers gain access to an organization by targeting employees. It’s an increasing security threat. Therefore, it’s essential to pen-test users. It can help businesses understand who is susceptible to attack within a company. Social engineering tests can help you find the weakest links in the organization and vulnerabilities. You can educate your employees with awareness training to deal with such attacks. 

In social engineering penetration testing, on-site and off-site tests are conducted. 

On-Site Pen Tests 

In these tests, the physical security of a building and policies in place are tested. For on-site pen tests, the following methods can help:

  • Tailgating
  • USB Drops
  • Impersonation
  • Dumpster Diving

Off-Site Pen Tests

These tests can help check the user’s security awareness. In these tests, the pen testers use publicly available information. They’re also known as remote pen tests. Commonly used attacks in these penetration tests are:

  • Phishing
  • Email Phishing
  • Vishing
  • Smishing

Steps to Performing a Social Engineering Penetration Testing

In social engineering penetration testing, you must perform the four main steps. These steps are:

Step 1: Scoping and Test Planning

As the name indicates, it’s the most crucial step because it defines the scope of the test and how it will be performed. It requires a meeting between the person who will perform the test and the management. People’s involvement in this meeting should be limited so that only a few people know about the test. 

In scoping, you decide which methods and attacks will be used to perform the test. For example, if you want to use USB drops or impersonation, it should be clear in the scope. Ensure that you write a clear contract and all parties agree on it. This contract is proof that you have gained permission to perform these tests. 

Step 2: Attack Vector Identification

In this step, the tester identifies all the methods that will be used during the test. All these methods will be somehow linked to users or groups in a company. Let’s understand it with examples:

  • Impersonation tests can help test security guards. In this test, the Amazon delivery person will deliver a parcel to an IT employee. A security guard will closely monitor employees when they enter a secure area in the building. 
  • Accountants will be tested with a phishing email. It will be from CEO to get the last month’s expense report. 
  • IT employees will be tested with an impersonation test. A pen test member will request a password reset. 

So, all companies can use these steps and evaluate the score of each test. In the end, they can calculate the overall score of the penetration test. 

Step 3: Penetration Attempts

In this step, the tester will use all the above-mentioned attack vectors to execute those tests. Ensure that everything is documented so that it can help in the last step, which is reporting. Here the following evidence needs to be collected:

  • Recorded Phone Calls

Recording phone calls is essential because you don’t have any other option to prove that this attack occurred. 

  • Emails from Phishing Attacks

Getting a record of such emails is important because it can help find how far the attacker goes before the user catches it. There is a possibility that the user might not notice it until the attacker gets the sensitive information. 

The best approach is to track the start and end times of tests. Moreover, the name of the person performing the test and the person being tested should be noted. 

Step 4: Reporting

It’s the last step where you bring all results together. Here you’ll address the senior management and will cover their concerns and the vulnerabilities you’ve found during the test. Along with problems, you should also provide solutions to mitigate those problems. 

A typical report summary consists of:

  • Executive summary
  • Technical risks found
  • Impact of the vulnerabilities found
  • Remedy option to fix those vulnerabilities
  • Vulnerability elimination 

So, this is how you can perform social engineering penetration testing. 


As cyber crimes are increasing, companies should perform pen tests to secure their organizations. Here we have discussed social engineering in detail. So, you can follow the above-given steps and perform social engineering in penetration testing. It will ensure that you understand the vulnerabilities and take timely measures to fix them. 

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