Saturday, December 18, 2010

Social Engineering Fundamentals, Part I: Hacker Tactics - Symantec

Most articles I’ve read on the topic of social engineering begin with some sort of definition like “the art and science of getting people to comply to your wishes” (Bernz 2), “an outside hacker’s use of psychological tricks on legitimate users of a computer system, in order to obtain information he needs to gain access to the system” (Palumbo), or “getting needed information (for example, a password) from a person rather than breaking into a system” (Berg). In reality, social engineering can be any and all of these things, depending upon where you sit. The one thing that everyone seems to agree upon is that social engineering is generally a hacker’s clever manipulation of the natural human tendency to trust. The hacker’s goal is to obtain information that will allow him/her to gain unauthorized access to a valued system and the information that resides on that system.

Security is all about trust. Trust in protection and authenticity. Generally agreed upon as the weakest link in the security chain, the natural human willingness to accept someone at his or her word leaves many of us vulnerable to attack. Many experienced security experts emphasize this fact. No matter how many articles are published about network holes, patches, and firewalls, we can only reduce the threat so much... and then it’s up to Maggie in accounting or her friend, Will, dialing in from a remote site, to keep the corporate network secured.

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