What is Baiting and How to Avoid it

  • By Bryan Lee
  • Published: Nov 18, 2022
  • Last Updated: Nov 23, 2023


We've all heard the saying, "the best things in life are free." But are they?

The recipient of a free car still has to pay the tax on it. Choosing the "Free Shipping" option on order can increase the delivery time by a few days or more. And sometimes, that too-good-to-be-true internet deal is actually a dressed-up delivery system for dangerous malware.

What is Baiting in Cybersecurity?

Baiting is a social engineering attack designed to lure the victim into clicking on links, opening attachments, or downloading malware. Since baiting is possible both digitally and physically, it's essential to always approach these offers with a healthy amount of suspicion.

Scammers often use promises of job opportunities, money transfers, and even romance to coerce their target into interacting. Understanding how baiting attacks occur will help you identify possible threats in the future!

Baiting vs. Phishing

It's easy to confuse baiting and phishing since they both aim to sneak malware onto a computer. However, they're carried out in very different ways.

Phishing attacks attempt to steal private and financial information by impersonating trusted companies or organizations. Scammers send a message saying they need information for an emergency or limited-time deal that the target has to act on immediately. Essentially, phishing leverages fear and anxiety to force people into action.

Baiting attacks also steal privileged information, but it does so by piquing the target's curiosity with free gifts. Rather than negative emotions, baiting creates positive feelings of excitement to tempt the target into downloading malware. This makes baiting sound like the lesser of two evils, but it's still a malicious and criminal act.

How Does Baiting Work?

Unlike most cybersecurity threats, baiting is a threat online and in the real world. This gives scammers a unique opportunity to stretch their creative muscles and trick their targets in surprising ways.

It uses a free gift to urge the target into action. There are apparent manners like email offerings or coupons that automatically install the malware when clicked, but there's danger in seemingly innocent ways too.

For example, the scammer could inconspicuously abandon their flash drive in the gym locker room or the lobby of your office. Regardless of the attacker's route, what matters is that the target is likely to notice and take the bait.

There are multiple types of malware baiting uses, but they'll mainly focus on reading the browser’s online activity. Anytime an account is logged in or you save a credit card number, the malware will record and send that information to the initiator.

Who Do Scammers Target with Baiting?

While everyone should ingrain a certain level of apprehension toward free offers, some people are more at risk than others. So, instead of constantly worrying, it might be easier to simply know how at-risk you are of a baiting attack.

However, your level of risk depends on what kind of attack it is.

Personal Attacks

Baiting attempts on individuals, like most cyber scams, are targeted toward the gullible, lazy, or curious. Meeting any of these conditions makes a target much more likely to interact with bait. Generally, most people think this refers to naïve children or the elderly.

However, according to the Better Business Bureau, there's an unexpected addition to the list. Young adults.

Research has found that nearly half of young adults (ages 20 to 29) were likely to fall for some scam. Many believe this weakness stems from the high level of comfort and speed by which young adults use the internet compared to their older counterparts.

Corporate Attacks

Professional attacks on a large corporation are different in both method and preparation. But one thing remains the same. The weakest link for any business will be the ordinary office worker. This is because of how interconnected office computers are these days.

baiting attack

They share files, accounts, and management programs across dozens of devices. So, if the malware installs onto a single computer, it'll have quick access to the rest of them. The simplest way to get around this is not to accept any offers on corporate devices and only use external hardware (hard drives, USBs, phones, etc.) that you bought yourself.

Use Detection Software and Spot Baiting Attempts

A key strategy for avoiding baiting is to use protective software like antivirus and antimalware programs. This can protect your computer from viruses that could otherwise be used to steal your personal information. So, even if you fall for a ploy, there's a safety net to ensure minimal damage.

Another critical way to avoid baiting is learning how to spot suspicious emails and offerings. Baiting emails frequently include spelling mistakes and out-of-place words. These emails are crafted by imitating official messages, but it's difficult for them to copy the tone exactly, and the wording ultimately becomes awkward. Don't click on any links or open attachments if you notice anything suspicious!

Also important is remembering that no one should ever need personal information from you—including your credit card number or bank account details—over email unless they're a trusted source (like PayPal or Venmo). If an individual or business asks for this type of information through email, it's likely a scammer trying to gain access to private bank accounts or other sensitive information!

Educate Yourself to Avoid Baiting Attacks

Baiting is a type of social engineering attack or scam trick. It is the art of luring people into making poor decisions by offering them something they want and stealing information such as passwords or credit card numbers.

Baiting can take many forms, including professionally crafted emails or fake social media offers. Many people have gotten into the unsafe habit of clicking on anything that interests them online. They believe things will be fine if they don't give up any information.

However, just opening links runs the risk of compromising your computer. Staying vigilant and evaluating offers before interacting with them will keep you out of danger and off the hook.

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