What is Shoulder Surfing? 9 ways to protect yourself from shoulder surfing 

What is Shoulder Surfing? 9 ways to protect yourself from shoulder surfing 

If you have ever tried to take a sneak peek at your friend’s mobile screen or desktop when they were trying to put a password, let us tell you that you are not alone. We have all done it at some point. Even if we might have caught a glimpse of some part of their passwords for fun, none of us have gone to the extent of hacking their accounts even as a prank. The reason is because our intention has never been to hurt anyone in that position.  

In the world of cyber-crime, intent is a big differentiator and hence it puts us in a position of risk if we are not careful when it comes to securing our assets and their pass-codes. Cyber-attacks that wreak havoc in the lives of everyone including a layman to an online business needs to be dealt with from every angle.  

On their devices, users do a variety of tasks, including sharing confidential data and conducting financial transactions. This increases the threat posed by cyber-attacks, hackers, and shoulder surfers. Nearly everyone and many people around the world engage in shoulder surfing, but not necessarily with malicious intent.  

This article seeks to focus on what shoulder surfing is and how can we protect ourselves from the same in the long run. So, if you want to shield yourself and your online business from a ‘casual’ but ‘lethal’ cyber-attack because someone surfed over your shoulder, read ahead.  


What is shoulder surfing? 

Shoulder surfing in cyber security is an example of a social engineering technique. It happens when the attacker merely peers over someone else’s shoulder to obtain personal information. It might be as simple as typing in a PIN at an ATM or a login and password for an online banking or social media account, for example. In addition to using sophisticated video cameras, binoculars, CCTV, and spy cameras to spy on the target and collect their personal information, shoulder surfers could also simply be individuals. One step in the hacking process is social engineering.  

Social engineering is the process of taking advantage of people to get private information. There are three types of social engineering attacks: 

  • Using people  
  • Based on mobile  
  • Based on computers  

Shoulder surfing is an example of the first type, which is based on people. 


Shoulder surfing- when and where? 

Shoulder surfing can happen anywhere in public, but it happens most often at ATM’s, payment kiosks in stores, gas stations and other places where people use laptops, phones or other electronic devices to enter personal or private information. Even if there is no one behind you and there are no “shoulder surfing” signs, you can’t feel safe because cyber-criminals today use high-tech binoculars and tiny cameras, and they often break into CCTV cameras in public places, supermarkets, and ATM kiosks to steal information. In fact, parabolic microphones are also used to eavesdrop important conversations.  

Shoulder surfing can be as simple as someone looking over your shoulder to steal information, or it can be as complicated as cyber-criminals using high-tech tools to steal personal and private information. 


Why do people use shoulder surfing? 

Shoulder surfing is often used by attackers because it is free, doesn’t require any skills, can’t be tracked, and doesn’t need any tools. 

Shoulder surfing has many illegal benefits, but it can also be done in a moral way to evaluate a company’s security, usually during a Red Team engagement. In cyber-security, shoulder surfing attacks are done by Security professionals or Ethical Hackers with some of the best Ethical Hacking Certifications, which they got by taking some of the best online Security courses. Most of the time, these are outside consultants who are hired to look at an organisations protection. 


How dangerous is a shoulder-surfing attack? 

Shoulder surfing can be dangerous in different ways, based on how private the information at stake is. Well, the biggest risk is losing privacy. For example, you could lose access to a social media account, a bank account, a credit card, a business email account, a professional laptop, etc. When an APT group does hack, they generally go after an organisation. This could be a political, government, or private sector organisation. In many cases, the goal is not the software company itself but one of its customers. So, we can say that the risk is different based on the reason for the attack. For websites you can at least have a security tool or product in place but cyber security for shoulder surfing ought to be dealt differently. 


How Can Shoulder Surfing Attacks Be Prevented? 

Shoulder surfing in cyber security is a concern for several reasons, as was already mentioned. Here are some steps you may take for shoulder surfing prevention and protect yourself from the dangers it poses.

1.Make two-step verification available

Use two-factor authentication whenever possible, such as with a one-time password (OTP), a mobile device proof, or the Microsoft or Google authentication tools.  

2.Construct a physical wall or shield

To prevent someone standing behind you from seeing your password or ATM PIN, try to conceal it with your body. Make sure no one can hear you if you need to chat on the phone regarding an OTP or credit card details.

3.Avoid logging into services that other users utilise

Never use a computer in a public location, including an airport, railway station, library, or even a display in an electronics store, to sign into any of your accounts. Secret data may be taken. 

4.Avoid using Wi-Fi in public areas

People are advised not to login into personal accounts on unsafe public Wi-Fi networks, such as social networking, banks, and retail websites. The data can always be viewed, even when the Wi-Fi link is using WEP, the weakest protocol.

5.Construct a privacy wall

On your laptop and phone, use privacy barriers or shields to ensure that only one person may view what is on the screen. 

6.Avoid using the same passwords repeatedly

Many of them make frequent use of the same password across other accounts. There is a danger that if you do this, you might potentially allow hackers access to other accounts. Try to use a different password for each account. 

7.Try something different

Fingerprints and facial recognition are examples of bio-metric logins that may be used to access computers, phones, and apps anywhere they are available.  

8.Make use of a programme to record your passwords

When using a password generator, you are not required to create a password. Instead, a lengthy string of random characters is created and saved by the password manager. You don’t need to type a password when you need one because the password manager automatically logs you in. The password generator generates and stores a lengthy random string. The individual is not required to create a password. You don’t need to type a password when you need one because the password manager automatically logs you in.

9.Learn things and teach others

Education is a key-way to make people aware of the danger of shoulder surfers, hackers, and other cyber-criminals and to fight back against them. Staying up to date on the latest techniques and methods for preventing problems lets you put effective strategies into action. 

Sharing this information also helps make the internet world a safer and more secure place. 


Keep up to date

Shoulder surfers are always coming up with new ways to attack, and it’s best to stay up to date on them because they are often used to get around established layers of defence. Keeping up with the latest cyber security shoulder surfing attack methodologies helps you to come up with new ways to stop them. 


Share what you know

It’s important to protect yourself first, but it’s also important to teach your family, friends, and coworkers about shoulder surfers and what they can do to stop them. Spreading the word about this growing threat to private information is a big part of making a community that cares more about security. 


As we close  

Here is hoping that you have understood the article and that you will use these tips when it comes to protect yourself from cyber-attacks that can happen because of shoulder surfing. On top of this, if you are looking to secure your website, you can also read this blog about website security to further understand why it is necessary.  

BigRock is a reliable domain, web security and web hosting provider that offers 99.9% up-time, 24/7 support, high scalability and performance. In case you have any doubts, queries or feedback for this article, please share them in the comments section below.  


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