Exploring How Vulnerability Puts You at Risk on Valentine’s Day

Computing and malware concept. Hacker using computer with digital business interface. Double exposure

By Paolo Passeri

According to Netskope’s latest “Year in Review” Cloud and Threat Report, social engineering was the primary method cyber attackers utilized to infiltrate organizations in 2023.

Contrary perhaps to the public perception of cyber attackers, social engineering doesn’t see threat actors breaking into systems with sophisticated coding skills. Instead, it hinges on exploiting individual human vulnerabilities, manipulating people into unwittingly granting access to sensitive information, effectively opening the door for attackers.

Identifying soft spots

While many individuals may hold the belief that they are immune to such attacks, the reality is that we can all become vulnerable at various points in time. Individuals undergoing intense emotional states can inadvertently have attention lapses, granting unauthorized access to confidential data or even divulging sensitive information.

Consider Valentine’s Day as an example. As in every market the world over, romance scams are a serious business in India. In a recent research, 39% percent of Indians involved in online dating say that their conversations with a potential love interest online turned out to be with a scammer. Romance is not limited to Valentine’s Day, and it is important to recognise that romance scams aren’t either, although this specific day renders individuals notably vulnerable.

Typically, someone in search of companionship might exercise caution and disregard unsolicited messages from fake dating profiles throughout the year. However, amidst the fervor of Valentine’s Day, feelings of loneliness may intensify, rendering individuals more susceptible to bad actors. Even individuals in committed relationships can find themselves swept up in heightened emotions surrounding Valentine’s Day. Whether it’s the excitement of commemorating relationship milestones or the anticipation of surprises, individuals may inadvertently click on dubious links, such as enticing offers for gift vouchers, without verifying their legitimacy.

Strong emotions are factors impacting an individual’s well-being and alter their usual behaviour. Lately, as numerous technology companies announce widespread layoffs, employees within the tech sector may grapple with feelings of job insecurity. This heightened sense of uncertainty makes tech workers more prone to falling prey to phishing links disguised as HR communications or job offers.

Controlling the risk

To address these risks, organizations have various strategies at their disposal. The risk inherently increases with the use of non-business applications on corporate devices. As a result, some may choose to limit or forbid access to personal applications, such as dating apps, on work devices. The recent surge in AI adoption has prompted many enterprises to consider blocking tools like ChatGPT and other generative AI applications on their systems. However, implementing a blanket ban on all non-business applications may foster a restrictive culture, stifle innovation, and convey a lack of trust in the workforce.

Alternatively, enterprises can opt for a more streamlined approach by using intelligent tools and implementing routine HTTP/HTTPS traffic scanning by security teams. This approach, which embraces cloud technology and employs a single-pass architecture, enables a more agile response to threats. Various security measures, including Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), Secure Web Gateway (SWG), and Threat and Data Loss Prevention (DLP), can be employed to enhance protection.

Furthermore, it’s essential to prioritize education and awareness initiatives, guiding users to exercise caution when interacting with links or accessing unauthorized applications. Highlighting individual vulnerabilities and illustrating real-life examples of how such attacks can impact personal lives can significantly enhance users’ comprehension of potential threats.

Encouraging partnership

Regardless of an organization’s chosen approach, it’s impractical to completely eliminate the possibility of employees clicking on malicious links. The most significant risk often arises when users conceal cyber incidents, particularly those stemming from social engineering attacks, where they may feel personally accountable.

In the event of a compromise, swift mitigation is paramount. Therefore, blaming victims of attacks is counterproductive. Instead, fostering a culture of cooperation, where the workforce actively participates in cybersecurity efforts, is crucial. This approach contrasts with instilling a culture of fear. Educating employees within a collaborative environment can significantly mitigate the risk of cybercriminals exploiting human vulnerability, thereby preventing potential distress not only on Valentine’s Day but also in the future.


About Paolo Passeri, Cyber Intelligence Specialist at Netskope:

Paolo supports Netskope’s customers in protecting their journey to the cloud and is a security professional, with 20+ years experience in the infosec industry. He is the mastermind behind, a blog detailing timelines and statistics of all the main cyber-attacks occurred since 2011. It is the primary source of data and trends of the threat landscape for the Infosec community, and the views expressed in this article are his own