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

Fred Villella's Security Training Seminars

One of the most ingenious social engineering scams I have ever witnessed was a series of computer security training seminars that Fred Villella of New Dimensions International ran from the fall of 1996 through 1998. His star player was Se7en, a thirtyish-looking fellow who claimed to have a real name of Christian Valor Asnieres, a degree in biology from the University of California in Los Angeles, and a history of computer hacking dating back to his mid-teens.

It all began around the end of 1995. Pete Shipley introduced Se7en to the hacker scene by letting him join Shipley's Dis Org gang (http://www.dis.org). At the time they were both working for Wells Fargo bank, Shipley in computer security and Se7en in a less exalted capacity. With Shipley vouching for Se7en's bona fides, the newcomer soon became a hacker superstar.

At Def Con 4 in the summer of 1996, Se7en stole the show. During Def Con, Winn Schwartau (of http://www.infowar.com) introduced Se7en to Villella. Villella recruited Se7en for a series of security seminars. Shipley joined the team, along with Phrack editor Michael Schiffman, the L0pht's Mudge, and, much later, Attrition.org's Brian Martin.

Se7en also had impressed me. His posts to the Def Con mail list showed that he was a gifted writer. Before Def Con I had suggested to Se7en that we should collaborate on my upcoming Happy Hacker book. I imagined that with the hacker talents he presumably possessed, along with his sense of humor and charismatic personality, we could create a best seller.

At that 1996 Def Con, journalist Richard Thieme and I lunched with Se7en. Thieme and I had agreed in advance that we would do the reporter thing and find out just what was the story behind Se7en.

During lunch I questioned some items on the resume Se7en had given me. What stood out was that he said he had an honorable discharge from "NATO Combined Forces." I asked, "Which service did you enlist in?"

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