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Social engineering is the art of exploiting human psychology, rather than technical hacking techniques, to gain access to buildings, systems or data. Learn how to spot the signs in a great CSO article:

Social engineering is the art of exploiting human psychology, rather than technical hacking techniques, to gain access to buildings, systems or data.

For example, instead of trying to find a software vulnerability, a social engineer might call an employee and pose as an IT support person, trying to trick the employee into divulging his password.

Famous hacker Kevin Mitnick helped popularize the term 'social engineering' in the '90s, although the idea and many of the techniques have been around as long as there have been scam artists.