Everything You Wanted to Know about
Social Engineering -- But Were Afraid to Ask...
How to Keep from Getting Suckered by Social Engineers
There are several basic techniques that you can use to spot
a social engineer at work. I use all of them
The Journalist's Approach
Here's how a good journalist might try to separate fact from
social engineering, and how you can evaluate what a journalist
- Does the reporter cite specific people and organizations?
If not, get suspicious. If he or she does cite sources, you can
always look up written material or phone the people in the story
and find out for yourself.
- Look up other articles on the same story. A web search will
get fast results. Your local library probably carries many newspapers
and news magazines.
- What is the reputation of the publication? On the web, lack
of advertising might tell you that a given site may be too small
to take seriously, or that no reputable advertiser will associate
itself with the site. If you buy a newspaper at the checkout
line of a supermarket, it is probably a "tabloid."
Tabloids have even lower standards of journalistic integrity
than Sprenger or Penenberg.
- Is the reporter highly emotional? OK, OK, what I've written
right here is emotional, but I'm doing this just to entertain
you readers! Honest! Seriously, you should apply extra caution
when reading highly entertaining, emotionally charged material,
including mine. And, OK, I admit it, I have a bias against Penenberg
because he has done some reporting against me that I consider
false and malicious.
- Which brings up the next point. Is there a hidden reason
someone would write something that is, if true, damaging to another
person? Penenberg and I both are trying to sell a book in which
Martin plays a key role. Does this mean you shouldn't trust what
Penenberg says about me and I say about him? You bet! Martin,
Levy and Space Rogue each run web sites that compete against
Antionline. Does this mean you shouldn't automatically trust
what any one of these web sites may say against the others? You
- How about the reputation of the reporter and the people in
the news story?
- What if a news story passes all the above tests? It cites
sources, and you even go so far as to check up on them yourself?
It runs in some highly respected newspaper such as the New York
Times. Every other news story seems to agree with it. The reporter
writes in a dispassionate, "just the facts, Ma'am"
tone. He or she has no history of feuding with the target of
the story. Does this mean it is true? I don't know about you,
but I would still try to keep an open mind. It does happen that
a false story gets into the news, only to be revealed as phony
many years later. The FBI assault on the Waco compound of the
Branch Davidians comes to mind.
More on social engineering --->
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