Social Engineering 2017-01-12T08:20:18+00:00

Social Engineering

The hard part of “hacking” is getting the exploit installed onto the target system. How do hackers get into systems? The award winning Mr. Robot on USA Network shows us how it’s done.

Mr. Robot Promotion

Mr. Robot – No Affiliation with Iconix

The recurring plot of the show — and real life — is to manipulate authorized users into granting access to systems. “Social Engineering” is the term security professionals use to describe manipulating people. A favorite tool on Mr. Robot is manipulative emails. In real life manipulative emails were how:

  • * The Russians tricked John Podesta to compromise the Clinton Presidential Campaign
  • * The Chinese stole the C-17, F-22 and F35
  • * Hackers stole Seagate’s payroll tax return
  • * Hackers stole $39 million from Ubiquiti
  • * Someone turned off the lights for 700,000 people in Ukraine
  • * Hackers encrypted the files at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital in a ransomware attack

Social engineering in email leverages three factors to manipulate the victim:

  1. Email displays what the sender (attacker) wants to display
  2. Attackers lie
  3. The human mind processes email using urgency clues and perceived relevance, factors easily manipulated with lies.

Consider the classic email warning — “Don’t open suspicious emails.”  Bad guys understand that users are trained not open suspicious emails. That is why bad guys lie and cheat to send emails that are not suspicious. Bad guys send emails that pretend to be from banks, FedEx, the IRS, colleagues, professional organizations, customers. etc., etc.  Bad guys steal the trust reposed in honest senders by lying. Bad guys manipulate the data email users see.

Admiral Rogers, the head of the NSA, posed the crucial question  –

[W]hat happens when suddenly our data is manipulated, and you no longer can believe what you’re physically seeing?

The answer — Deception.  Spearphishing is nothing more than the application of deception in email.

SP Guard fights deception in email.