Social Engineering: Targeting Human Weakness in a Digital World - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

Geneva College Blog

RSS Subscribe Print   

Continuing Education Program Spotlight
September 25, 2018

Social Engineering: Targeting Human Weakness in a Digital World

No matter how technologically advanced our society becomes, people will always have a role in the security of information… and, unfortunately, that role is often serving as the weakest link in combatting cybersecurity dangers.

One of these dangers is social engineering, defined as the use of psychological deception to mine confidential information from individuals. Attackers use knowledge of human behavior to predict and execute strategies to gain personal information from people.  In the realm of technology, these attacks are becoming a serious problem. People are often unaware of the types of technological attacks to which they might be subject, which is one reason cybersecurity is so important.  

Phishing is the most popular digital attack. The goal is to get sensitive information from the individual and gain access to the device they are using. Phishing occurs when a technology user is prompted to give personal information, download malicious software or click a URL that leads to a dangerous website. Once the file is downloaded or the user visits the website, cyber criminals can track keystrokes, access directories and files, or upload spy programs. The prompts can happen through email, social media, and messaging, and they are specifically designed to prey on ever-so-human characteristics like fear, greed, sympathy, inattention, or curiosity. 

Whaling is a more focused form of phishing that targets the management of companies and government officials. A whaling message usually looks like it is business-related, but the end goal is the same as phishing: to gain access to important information and sometimes to hold the information with a demand for money to release it, a practice known as ransomware.

Pretexting is another social engineering technique. It works by creating very credible personas or stories that build false trust in the targeted person before prompting that person to divulge information.

Knowing about the dangers of social engineering is important, but there is also a need for people who can investigate, stop or prevent these types of attacks. Our world is so dependent on technology that this protection is increasingly necessary.     

This is where cybersecurity professionals can help. Like all superheroes, cybersecurity experts are rare. There is a worldwide need for people with internet security knowledge. Technology is involved in nearly all of our daily activities from basic communication to secure banking through online networks. The lack of policing on the digital plane is one reason criminals find this type of attack so inviting.

Cybersecurity is exactly what it sounds like: protection for computers, websites and other digital devices and media. Cybersecurity professionals seek to protect individuals and companies from the dangers of internet crime by shoring up websites, email and other digital areas that hold secure information. They can perform digital forensics after the fact to identify and track down the culprits. They also try to create awareness of dangers to which individuals may be exposed while online. These forms of protection will aid in stopping cybercrime, but there is a lack of people who are informed on these issues.

Geneva College recognizes the need for well-trained cybersecurity professionals and a cybersecurity degree program. They are meeting this need for more “internet police” with their new Computer Science and Cybersecurity 3+1 program. Students will graduate in four years with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Master of Science in Cybersecurity. A Geneva education provides students with the technical and theoretical knowledge of the cyber world and how to keep individuals and organizations safe. Students also attain managerial skills that can lead to management positions. By the third year of the four-year bachelor’s/master’s program, students will enroll in graduate classes, which also count toward undergraduate work. 

One key difference in Geneva’s program is the Christ-centered way all material is taught. Throughout their schooling at Geneva, students are taught how to use their knowledge of cyber networks to glorify God through their work, taking care of their employers, co-workers, family and friends. One irreplaceable characteristic of cybersecurity pros is integrity, and Geneva graduates have learned to serve God and neighbor faithfully.

Geneva Cybersecurity Professor Paul Poteete says, “One of the advantages students at Geneva have is they are coming from an organization that believes in absolute right and wrong. You do not trust your critical assets to a mercenary who is only in it for themselves. We believe that everyone is created in the image of God and deserves respect. Information security is a great place to be from a job opportunity perspective, and individuals with ethics based on solid moral values make a great staff.”

Geneva College is seeking to create a safer digital tomorrow by providing a purposeful, rigorous, and Christ-centered education today. To learn more about the Cybersecurity programs – the 3+1 B.S./M.S. or M.S. in Cybersecurity – at Geneva College, visit or contact Admissions at 800.847.8255 or

-Jessica Wilson ‘21