Hacking Humans Naiveté

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Naiveté: A lack of sophistication or worldliness. That sums up a lot of people I know. “There’s a sucker born every minute” is a phrase often credited to P.T. Barnum (1810 – 1891), an American showman. It is generally taken to mean that there are (and always will be) a lot of gullible people in the world.

Predator: A predator is an organism that feeds on another organism. That also sums up a lot of people I know. I observe them in person and in the news daily.

There are many ways how, and motivations why, a predator stalks their prey. Often it is just their nature to do so. Control and money top the list of motivations.

In the world of Information Security the “how” is “social engineering”.

Social engineering is the act of manipulating people into performing actions or divulging confidential information, rather than by breaking in or using technical hacking techniques (essentially a fancier, more technical way of lying).

Social engineering or “social penetration” techniques are used to bypass sophisticated and expensive hardware and software in a corporate network. Smart organizations train their employees to be aware of and resist the most common attempts to trick them into letting down their guard.

The Register reports that pentesters, a.k.a ethical hackers, “regularly send client employees emails informing them that the strength of their login passwords is being tested through a new website. They are then instructed to follow a link and enter their credentials. The success rate: as high as 50 per cent.”

As the article points out, humans have a tendency to trust one another. It’s a survival instinct built on millions of years of evolution. “When one person saw that a group of his peers ate a particular berry and didn’t die, he ate the same fruit – and survived as a result.” That’s trust, and it’s exploitable.

This is where we throw around words like “naïve” and “sucker.” You don’t really need to be naïve, a sucker or stupid to respond to emails like this. Really, you just need to be nice, helpful and trusting.

I found a website called “Hacks4Sale” (a site which Norton Internet Security deems unsafe, so go there at your own peril) which employs similar tactics, but they claim are for different reasons:

A very large portion of our clients are the victims of spousal infidelity, nowadays the primary means people employ to communicate with their lover are e-mails and social networking websites, both of witch we can help you gain access to through our software. Our software solutions enable our clients to retrieve (no physical access to the user’s computer is required) the login credentials to accounts at all the major e-mail and social networking providers (Yahoo,Gmail,Hotmail,Myspace,Facebook and many others).

Recognize that the predator uses these tactics to get what they seek. They will stop at nothing and consider you their natural prey.

Always question authority or those who claim authority.

Don’t automatically trust or give the benefit of the doubt.

When the phone rings, an email comes in or you are approached, proceed with caution.

Protect your identity.

1. Get a credit freeze and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity thief.

2. Invest in anti-virus and keep it auto-updated and check out my spyware killer IDTheftSecurty HERE

3. Get my book as an iPhone App or go to my website and get my FREE ebook on how to protect yourself from the bad guy.

4. Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk. (Disclosures)

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing identity theft on Fox News.

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