An example of social engineering
One of the easiest ways to gather informations
Not Assigned
21 June 1999
by _A&T
Courtesy of Fravia's pages of reverse engineering
slightly edited
by fravia+
Yes, this kind of social engineering tricks are very important, and are actually part of the how to search section as well. Searchers are well advised to learn the basic social engineering techniques. Stalker needs to know them as well. Hackers need social engineering quite a lot and Crackers almost as much. Come to think of it it would wonder me that you, dear reader, will never find an use for this kind of lore...
Note also the simple, yet deep truth underlined by _A&T: "if you are trained in computer sciences, you unconsciously tend to think that everything that is easy for you is easy also for the others; well, it's not! All the knowledge you have built during many years is a mystery for them. On the net, you often find expert and trained people, because it's the right place to find them. Everywhere else in the world, they are rare". How true, and how important! I notice myself how annoyed I often get for the slow pace that most relatives, friends or collegues of mine use when dealing with PC or Web-related stuff. What's obvious for anyone of us is a mistery for most fellow humans, funny, but also, maybe, ahem, "resourceful", as well... eheh :-)
There is a crack, a crack in everything That's how the light gets in
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I'm not a native English speaker, as you will soon discover reading this :-), so please forgive any mistakes.
An example of social engineering
One of the easiest way to gather informations
Written by _A&T

Often you spend a lot of energy trying to gather informations using all the net resources you can think of... and that's ok, but sometimes there is another method, easier and quicker. Reading this you will find I started the other way round, that is, I had some 'real world' infos and used them to get 'virtual' ones, something you have probably often overlooked.

Tools required
A working brain.
A telephone.

Target's URL/FTP

Program History


Yeah, after reading several essays from Fravia's pages we are all experts in cracking apps, searching the web and stalking enemies, aren't we? If we want to find someone on the net, we know we have lots of tools to begin with, like Dejanews, or DNS records. Now I want to tell you of a powerful technique, which is mainly used for hacking-related efforts, but works well almost whenever you can apply it. Social engineering means "fooling people into telling you what you want to know, even if they are told not to/you are not entitled to/they don't want to/and so on".

The 99% theory
The most astonishing aspect is that it works! The reason goes more or less like this: of the 6 billions people in the world, 1% are intelligent beings, the other 99% blindly follow their lead. No, I am not saying that they have no brain: the previous sentence applies for each aspect of our life separately. For example, I can not paint like Bilibin :-), nor I will able to do it in my entire life. For this, I reside on the 99% side. But talking of computers, I know only one guy who can beat me (in 'real' life, of course, the Net is full of talented people), so I feel I stay on the 1% side. I bet the same is true for the majority of you, since you are reading Fravia's pages. If not, carry on and study some more essays, you will surely change your status.

What all that means for us? It's easy to guess: if you are trained in computer sciences, you unconsciously tend to think that everything that is easy for you is easy also for the others; well, it's not! All the knowledge you have built during many years is a mystery for them. On the net, you often find expert and trained people, because it's the right place to find them. Everywhere else in the world, they are rare.
Now to the interesting part: after have picked up your "victim", he/she will almost surely reside on the 99% 'blind' side, and you have a huge advantage: you simply know what you are talking about, he does not.
I will give you a small example, very simple and straightforward, but I am lazy and this is the first which came to my mind, since it's the last I did.
So there was a guy, the story is long and I am going to write down only the relevant parts. I exchanged some e-mail with him, and I was sure he was hiding something important to me. Here are the relevant things I knew of him:

So what? Well, I wanted to read his past mail. I was betting that, like most 99%-sided people, he was not deleting it after reading. So I tricked him to tell me his snail-mail address, which people often give away with little concern, btw. A quick call to the local telephone company gave me his number.
Here begins the difficult part: you have to play the 'perfect employee' role.

I picked up the telephone and called him, at 8.30am.

(conversation translated)
"Good morning sir, I am (insert faked name here), I am willing to speak with mr. (insert victim's name here)"
"Yes, hold on please"
"Hello, I am (victim's name)"
"Good morning sir, I am an employee of the local Hotmail agency (btw, I don't think Hotmal has 'local agencies'), I am sorry I am calling you so early..."
"Uh, hotmail, well, I was having breakfast, but it doesn't matter" (victim is surprised)
"I was able to call you because of the personal data form you filled when creating your account, so don't be surprised" (with eye-blinking tone)
"My pers.. oh, yes"
"I have to inform you that we had a hard disk crash tonight, and we are trying to restore all our user's mail."
"A crash? Is my mail lost?"
"Oh no, sir, we can restore it. But, since we are simple employees, and we are not allowed to mess with our user's mail, we need your password, otherwise we cannot take any action"(first try, probably unsuccessfull)
"Er, my password? Well..."
"Yes, I know, you have read on the license agreement that we will never ask for it, but it was written by the legal department, you know, all law stuff that's needed to open business and such. (effort to gain victim's trust)
Your username is (insert victim's username), isn't it? Legals gave us your username and telephone, but, as smart as they are, not the password. See, without your password nobody can access your mail, even we hotmail employees. But we have to restore your mail, and we need access. You can be sure we will not use your password for anything else, well, we will forget it." (smiling)
"Well, it's not so secret (also smiling! it's amazing...), my pass is xxxxxx"
"Thank you very much, sir. We will restore your mail in a few minutes"
"But no mail is lost, isn't it?"
"Absolutely, sir. You should not experience any problems, but do not hesitate to contact us just in case. You will find contact numbers on our web page" (which our victim has probably never read from begin to end)
"Thanx, you are very efficient, goodbye"

And that's all. You see, nothing difficult. This time was easy, because no questions came from the victim. Often you need a ready imagination to reply with convincing arguments. You don't need to be, just pretend you are, and remember that you are on the 1% side :-)

Final Notes


Ob Duh
Obviously all this essay talks about some theoretical situation. Tricking people into giving away their password is illegal in some countries, and if you take every word literally this text could be seen as illegal as well. But you are smart, don't you?, so you can see the irony between the lines.

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