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Everything You Wanted to Know about Social Engineering -- But Were Afraid to Ask...

The Historian's Approach

I'm a Christian. That means I have to believe something unbelievable - that almost 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ died one Friday near sunset, and was seen alive the following Sunday morning.

Ridiculous - yet I believe it. Hundreds of millions of people believe it today. Among us are countless scientists, lawyers, judges, and reporters. We are people who are trained to be to be skeptical, yet we believe.


At the time of Jesus, a number of historians were active. Unfortunately, other than the four Gospel accounts found in the Bible, only one historian, Josephus, even mentions Jesus. However, many of the people who were eyewitnesses to His resurrection made it into many other history books. The way they made history was by refusing to worship the Roman Emperor. This law was enforced by not just the death penalty. Those convicted of not worshiping Caesar faced horrible deaths, under torture.

Most of the eyewitnesses to Jesus' resurrection, and countless thousands of their followers, chose death. They could have gotten off by pretending to worship the Emperor and by claiming that they were lying about Jesus. They could have social engineered themselves out of trouble and continued to secretly worship Him. However, they cared so much for those of us yet to be born, those of us not able to see Jesus for ourselves, that they choose to die horribly - as witnesses. They chose to pay the most extreme price so that people such as me could know how important to them it was to prove by their witness that Jesus really rose from the dead and walked on Earth.

I can't believe so many people would die horribly to perpetrate a hoax.

What if these witnesses were all psychotics, unable to tell the difference between reality and fantasy?

If they were psychotic, how were eyewitnesses to Jesus' resurrection able to recruit so many to their faith - in the face of hideous punishment? Would you let a wandering psychotic bum persuade you to commit a crime that would be punished by be being fed alive to a lion or nailed naked to a cross in front of a jeering mob to die over a period of several days from thirst and exposure?

But, but, haven't I been saying all along that there is no possible amount of evidence that can ever prove anything true? That's where grace comes in…

"The truth shall make you free" - The Holy Bible, John 8:32.

So how does the historical technique bear on how to thwart social engineering?

The basic concept is that a person's character, as revealed by written accounts by credible writers, gives witness to the truth of what he or she says. When Matt Richtel decided to investigate John Vranesevich, he sought contact information for his high school teachers, investors, family. I'm presuming that in his investigations, Vranesevich's character was a core issue. If someone has a history of honest dealings with family, friends, school and work, that person is likely to continue being honest.

By contrast, if you haven't already, how about looking into what the Attrition.org web site carries? If it is still on the Internet when you read this, you will discover advocacy of retail fraud, murder, shoplifting, perjury, burglary and computer crime. A sensible historian would conclude that the people who run it are unreliable sources - because the authors of the material on that site clearly oppose the principle of honesty and advocate a constellation of dishonest activities.

The same holds for Ken Williams' old Packetstorm site. What kind of person would put on his web site pornography that degrades Catholic nuns and threats against a girl whose only crime is being the sister of someone he hates?

More on social engineering --->

Back to the index of "Everything You Wanted to Know About Social Engineering -- But Were Afraid to Ask --->

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