Social Engineering Prevention, using the System 1 and 2 Approach

Social Engineering prevention plays a vital part in the ever-evolving world of cybersecurity, and we’re constantly at risk of falling victim to well-thought-out tactics. These attacks prey on our brain’s natural inclinations, making understanding how our thought processes work vital.

In my post, I will delve into the groundbreaking research of Daniel Kahneman, who showed that our brain has two operating systems and how it can work in Cyber. The quick, intuitive thinking (System 1) and slow, analytical thinking (System 2) and how mastering both can fortify defences against cyber threats.

Quick Thinking: System 1

In familiar situations or routine tasks, our brains often resort to “System 1” thinking – quick, automatic, and intuitive.

However, this mode is prone to errors due to cognitive shortcuts:

1. The Amygdala: This almond-shaped brain structure processes emotions, including fear and anxiety. Cybercriminals manipulate it to trigger emotional responses.

2. Heuristics: Mental shortcuts that aid rapid judgment but can lead to vulnerability when we trust patterns without question.

3. Confirmation Bias: Our brains seek information that aligns with our beliefs, a weakness social engineers exploit by crafting deceptive messages.

Thoughtful Analysis: System 2

When facing unfamiliar, complex, or suspicious situations, our brains engage “System 2” thinking – deliberate, analytical, and resource-intensive:

1. Prefrontal Cortex: Responsible for reasoning and decision-making, this region becomes highly active. It helps us evaluate information critically.

2. Critical Thinking: Assessing information credibility, analysing risks, and considering alternatives becomes crucial. It helps us avoid falling for social engineering traps.

3. Working Memory: This temporary storage system aids in processing complex scenarios and making informed choices.

Balancing System 1 and System 2 for Social Engineering Prevention

1. Mindful Awareness: Pay attention to your emotional reactions. Quick, emotional responses may indicate System 1 thinking at play.

2. Pause and Reflect: In urgent or unexpected situations, take a moment to think before responding. This pause can shift you from autopilot to analytical thinking.

3. Education and Training: Cybersecurity training enhances your ability to recognise social engineering tactics and respond with critical thinking.

In conclusion, we need to understand the interplay between fast, automatic thinking (System 1) and slow, analytical thinking (System 2) is vital for social engineering prevention. By recognising the neural processes in action and actively engaging in critical thinking when needed, you can build resilience against cyber threats, safeguarding your data, assets, and personal information in an increasingly digital world.

Blog contributor, Clay,  BIT Security’s SME for Phishing Simulations

Think before you click.

For advice on social engineering prevention  or protecting your people, processes and technology, please contact our Security Team through our contact us page

Contact us – BIT Security (