Exposing Phallacy: An Exploration of Flashing in a Contemporary Context

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All social engineering techniques are based on specific attributes of human decision-making known as cognitive biases. The attacks used in social engineering can be used to steal employees' confidential information. The most common type of social engineering happens over the phone. Other examples of social engineering attacks are criminals posing as exterminators, fire marshals and technicians to go unnoticed as they steal company secrets. One example of social engineering is an individual who walks into a building and posts an official-looking announcement to the company bulletin that says the number for the help desk has changed.

So, when employees call for help the individual asks them for their passwords and IDs thereby gaining the ability to access the company's private information. Another example of social engineering would be that the hacker contacts the target on a social networking site and starts a conversation with the target.

Gradually the hacker gains the trust of the target and then uses that trust to get access to sensitive information like password or bank account details. Social engineering relies heavily on the 6 principles of influence established by Robert Cialdini. Cialdini's theory of influence is based on six key principles: reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking, scarcity.

Vishing, otherwise known as " voice phishing ", is the criminal practice of using social engineering over the telephone system to gain access to private personal and financial information from the public for the purpose of financial reward. It is also employed by attackers for reconnaissance purposes to gather more detailed intelligence on a target organisation. Phishing is a technique of fraudulently obtaining private information.

Typically, the phisher sends an e-mail that appears to come from a legitimate business—a bank, or credit card company —requesting "verification" of information and warning of some dire consequence if it is not provided.

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The e-mail usually contains a link to a fraudulent web page that seems legitimate—with company logos and content—and has a form requesting everything from a home address to an ATM card 's PIN or a credit card number. For example, in , there was a phishing scam in which users received e-mails supposedly from eBay claiming that the user's account was about to be suspended unless a link provided was clicked to update a credit card information that the genuine eBay already had. Because it is relatively simple to make a Web site resemble a legitimate organization's site by mimicking the HTML code and logos the scam counted on people being tricked into thinking they were being contacted by eBay and subsequently, were going to eBay's site to update their account information.

By spamming large groups of people, the "phisher" counted on the e-mail being read by a percentage of people who already had listed credit card numbers with eBay legitimately, who might respond. The act of using SMS text messaging to lure victims into a specific course of action.

Like Phishing it can be clicking on a malicious link or divulging information. Pretending or pretexting to be another person with the goal of gaining access physically to a system or building. Pretexting adj. This technique can be used to fool a business into disclosing customer information as well as by private investigators to obtain telephone records, utility records, banking records and other information directly from company service representatives.

Pretexting can also be used to impersonate co-workers, police, bank, tax authorities, clergy, insurance investigators—or any other individual who could have perceived authority or right-to-know in the mind of the targeted victim. The pretexter must simply prepare answers to questions that might be asked by the victim. In some cases, all that is needed is a voice that sounds authoritative, an earnest tone, and an ability to think on one's feet to create a pretextual scenario. Phone phishing or " vishing " uses a rogue interactive voice response IVR system to recreate a legitimate-sounding copy of a bank or other institution's IVR system.

The victim is prompted typically via a phishing e-mail to call in to the "bank" via a ideally toll free number provided in order to "verify" information. A typical "vishing" system will reject log-ins continually, ensuring the victim enters PINs or passwords multiple times, often disclosing several different passwords. Although similar to "phishing", spear phishing is a technique that fraudulently obtains private information by sending highly customized emails to few end users. It is the main difference between phishing attacks because phishing campaigns focus on sending out high volumes of generalized emails with the expectation that only a few people will respond.

On the other hand, spear phishing emails require the attacker to perform additional research on their targets in order to "trick" end users into performing requested activities. Water holing is a targeted social engineering strategy that capitalizes on the trust users have in websites they regularly visit.

The victim feels safe to do things they would not do in a different situation. A wary person might, for example, purposefully avoid clicking a link in an unsolicited email, but the same person would not hesitate to follow a link on a website they often visit. So, the attacker prepares a trap for the unwary prey at a favored watering hole. This strategy has been successfully used to gain access to some supposedly very secure systems.

The attacker may set out by identifying a group or individuals to target. The preparation involves gathering information about websites the targets often visit from the secure system.


  1. Social engineering (security) - Wikipedia.
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The information gathering confirms that the targets visit the websites and that the system allows such visits. The attacker then tests these websites for vulnerabilities to inject code that may infect a visitor's system with malware. The injected code trap and malware may be tailored to the specific target group and the specific systems they use. In time, one or more members of the target group will get infected and the attacker can gain access to the secure system. Baiting is like the real-world Trojan horse that uses physical media and relies on the curiosity or greed of the victim.

For example, an attacker may create a disk featuring a corporate logo, available from the target's website, and label it "Executive Salary Summary Q2 ". The attacker then leaves the disk on the floor of an elevator or somewhere in the lobby of the target company. An unknowing employee may find it and insert the disk into a computer to satisfy their curiosity, or a good Samaritan may find it and return it to the company. In any case, just inserting the disk into a computer installs malware, giving attackers access to the victim's PC and, perhaps, the target company's internal computer network.

Unless computer controls block infections, insertion compromises PCs "auto-running" media. Hostile devices can also be used. A " road apple " the colloquial term for horse manure , suggesting the device's undesirable nature is any removable media with malicious software left in opportunistic or conspicuous places. Curious people take it and plug it into a computer, infecting the host and any attached networks.

Hackers may give them enticing labels, such as "Employee Salaries" or "Confidential". One study done in had researchers drop USB drives around the campus of the University of Illinois. The drives contained files on them that linked to webpages owned by the researchers. The researchers were able to see how many of the drives had files on them opened, but not how many were inserted into a computer without having a file opened. An attacker, seeking entry to a restricted area secured by unattended, electronic access control , e.

Following common courtesy, the legitimate person will usually hold the door open for the attacker or the attackers themselves may ask the employee to hold it open for them. The legitimate person may fail to ask for identification for any of several reasons, or may accept an assertion that the attacker has forgotten or lost the appropriate identity token. The attacker may also fake the action of presenting an identity token. Common confidence tricksters or fraudsters also could be considered "social engineers" in the wider sense, in that they deliberately deceive and manipulate people, exploiting human weaknesses to obtain personal benefit.

They may, for example, use social engineering techniques as part of an IT fraud. A very recent [ when? Among the many motivations for deception are:.


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  • Training to Employees Training employees in security protocols relevant to their position. Scrutinizing Information Identifying which information is sensitive and evaluating its exposure to social engineering and breakdowns in security systems building, computer system, etc. Security Protocols Establishing security protocols, policies, and procedures for handling sensitive information. Inoculation Preventing social engineering and other fraudulent tricks or traps by instilling a resistance to persuasion attempts through exposure to similar or related attempts.

    Review Reviewing the above steps regularly: no solutions to information integrity are perfect. Waste Management Using a waste management service that has dumpsters with locks on them, with keys to them limited only to the waste management company and the cleaning staff. Locating the dumpster either in view of employees so that trying to access it carries a risk of being seen or caught, or behind a locked gate or fence where the person must trespass before they can attempt to access the dumpster. Kevin Mitnick is an American computer security consultant, author and hacker , best known for his high-profile arrest and later five year conviction for various computer and communications-related crimes.

    He is also the Chief Hacking Officer of the security awareness training company KnowBe4, as well as an active advisory board member at Zimperium , [23] a firm that develops a mobile intrusion prevention system. Susan Headley was an American hacker active during the late s and early s widely respected for her expertise in social engineering, pretexting , and psychological subversion.

    She retired to professional poker. Brothers Ramy, Muzher, and Shadde Badir—all of whom were blind from birth—managed to set up an extensive phone and computer fraud scheme in Israel in the s using social engineering, voice impersonation, and Braille-display computers. In common law , pretexting is an invasion of privacy tort of appropriation.

    It was signed by President George W. Bush on 12 January Federal law that specifically addresses pretexting of banking records as an illegal act punishable under federal statutes. When a business entity such as a private investigator, SIU insurance investigator, or an adjuster conducts any type of deception, it falls under the authority of the Federal Trade Commission FTC.

    This federal agency has the obligation and authority to ensure that consumers are not subjected to any unfair or deceptive business practices. US Federal Trade Commission Act, Section 5 of the FTCA states, in part: "Whenever the Commission shall have reason to believe that any such person, partnership, or corporation has been or is using any unfair method of competition or unfair or deceptive act or practice in or affecting commerce, and if it shall appear to the Commission that a proceeding by it in respect thereof would be to the interest of the public, it shall issue and serve upon such person, partnership, or corporation a complaint stating its charges in that respect.

    The statute states that when someone obtains any personal, non-public information from a financial institution or the consumer, their action is subject to the statute. The same questions about person, time, and place can be applied to chronic diseases. Who are the people who have the disease? What are their characteristics? What is their occupation? Where do they live and work? How did disease occurrence vary over time?

    Personal characteristics also provide clues about the causes of chronic diseases. Many disease vary in relation to age and gender, but many other characteristics are also important, such as occupation, diet, sexual activity, travel history, and personal behaviors exercise, smoking, etc. Because so many diseases vary in relation to disease, one frequently sees disease rates categorized this way - so-called "age-specific rates of disease.

    In adulthood the mortality rates rise sharply and become higher in males. Although the mortality rate continues to rise into old age, the gender difference begins to narrow. One might describe this as a chronic, progressive disease in which the gender differences raise the question of whether sex hormones play a role, particularly since females begin to catch up after menopause occurs.

    Age Group years. In addition to age and gender one might want to examine how disease rates differ with respect to other characteristics, such as race. The table below summarizes. Ethnic and racial differences in disease rates sometimes have a genetic basis, e. Differences in disease frequency by location provides important clues about the determinants of chronic diseases.

    Where does the disease tend to occur? These maps show death rates from stomach cancer in females top and males below in different US counties. The darkness of shading of each county indicates how its stomach cancer rate compares with the national average.

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    The darkest shading indicates rates well above average, and white shading indicates rates below average; the gray shading indicates intermediate levels. Note that rates of stomach cancer tend to be high in counties in the north-central part of the country in both males and females. Investigators speculated that these clusters might correlate with populations of German or Scandinavian descent who have a tradition of eating smoked fish.

    Could the high rates of stomach cancer be the result of their consumption of smoked fish or other traditional methods of food preservation? Source: Atlas of Cancer Mortality for U. Rates of stomach cancer also vary among countries. Japanese have a higher rate of stomach cancer than Caucasians in California. Is this due to a genetic difference? A dietary difference? The rate among Japanese people diminishes after they move to US, and diminishes even more in their offspring. One possibility is that once the Japanese move here, they begin to shift to an American diet, and this trend is even stronger in their children.

    Are there important dietary differences? Could consumption of large amounts of smoked fish be a cause of stomach cancer? Mortality Rate. Tuberculosis TB is one of the great killers of all times. The graph on the right shows the mortality rate from TB from in England and Wales. The remarkable downward trend began well before the development of antibiotics. The steady improvement was probably a direct result of "the sanitary idea" which resulted in concerted efforts to improve working and living conditions, nutrition, ventilation, and waste management.

    This suggests that nutritional deficiencies, translocation, crowding, and other adverse circumstances associated with war are contributing factors to the causation of TB. Example 2: Toxic Shock and Rely Tampons. In January there were several reports of toxic shock syndrome due to infection with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, and the descriptive epidemiology indicated that the problem was occurring primarily in menstruating women.

    A CDC task force investigated and eventually traced the outbreak to the introduction of Rely tampons, a super absorbent product marketed by Proctor and Gamble. The monthly cases of toxic shock syndrome in are shown in the graph below [from A. Reingold et al. Med , ]. The graph shows that prior to there were just occasional cases of toxic shock syndrome in the United States. After Rely tampons were introduced in , there was a steady increase in toxic shock cases which peaked at about per month in Shortly after that, Rely tampons were taken off the market, and the incidence declined sharply.

    There were actual two pieces of evidence related to time variations that supported Rely tampons as the cause. First, descriptive epidemiology suggested a link to menstruation, leading doctors to take bacterial cultures from the vagina. This provided a key clue suggesting a link to certain brands of tampons. In addition, the frequency of toxic shock syndrome clearly correlated with the introduction and subsequent removal of Rely tampons from the market. If the frequency of a disease or mortality from a disease changes over time, there are several factors which could be responsible:. Specifying the research questions is essential to selection of an appropriate study population, and infinite questions exist.

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    Nevertheless, Keyes and Galea stress two fundamental types of research questions which have important implications selecting an appropriate study design. Questions like these require samples that are representative of the population being studied, that is comparable to the population in their characteristics and they require adequate sample size in order to minimize sampling error.

    Questions like these also require an adequate sample size to precisely assess the magnitude of an effect, but they differ from questions aimed at parameter estimation in that that they require making comparisons, e. When trying to answer questions like these regarding etiology, it is not so important that the samples be representative of the overall population, but for accurate assessment of the effect the groups being compared must be comparable to each other with respect to other factors that affect the outcome.

    Keyes and Galea identify three fundamental approaches to study design that can be applied regardless of whether one's goal is to take representative samples to estimate population parameters or to take purposive samples in order to determine whether a given exposure or factor causes one or more health outcomes. The second option will only be utilized in analytical studies, which will be covered in a separate module, but the first two options will be seen in the next section describing several types of descritive studies.

    A case report is a detailed description of disease occurrence in a single person. Unusual features of the case may suggest a new hypothesis about the causes or mechanisms of disease. Link to article by Ammann AJ et al: Acquired immunodeficiency in an infant: possible transmission by means of blood products. The Lancet , An infant born with Rh incompatibility; required blood products from 18 donors over 8 weeks and subsequently developed unusual recurrent infections with opportunistic agents such as Candida.

    There was no family history of immunodeficiency, but one of the blood donors was found to have died of AIDS. This led the investigators to hypothesize that AIDS could be transmitted by blood transfusion. Rabies is almost uniformly fatal once it develops. As of there had been only four survivors, each of whom received rabies prophylaxis after the bite, but before symptoms developed. Willoughby et al.

    The bat bit her left index finger. The wound was washed with peroxide, but medical attention was not sought, and no rabies prophylaxis was administered. One month later she began to experience progressive neurological symptoms that were eventually diagnosed as rabies. The mainstay of her treatment was medically induced coma. Eight days later blood tests demonstrated that she had begun to develop an immune response to the rabies virus. Eventually the coma was reversed, and the patient gradually regained consciousness.

    She had severe neurological deficits, but gradually improved. She was discharged to her home after 76 days. Five months after her initial hospitalization, she was alert and communicative, but had persistent slurred speech and an unsteady gait. The report by Willoughby et al. The report is important because it demonstrates that it is possible for victims of rabies to survive, even without post-exposure prophylaxis. However, we have no idea how effective this treatment might be. A case series is a report on the characteristics of a group of subjects who all have a particular disease or condition.

    Common features among the group may suggest hypotheses about disease causation.

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    Note that the "series" may be small as in the example below or it may be large hundreds or thousands of "cases". However, the chief limitation is that there is no comparison group. Consequently, common features may suggest hypotheses, but these need to be tested with some sort of analytical study before an association can be accepted as valid. Example: Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia and mucosal candidiasis in previously healthy homosexual men: evidence of a new acquired cellular immunodeficiency.

    In — four previously healthy young men were diagnosed with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, an unusual "opportunistic" infection that had only been seen in immune compromised people with hereditary disorders or in people with immune compromise due to chemotherapy. The medical histories didn't suggest any preexisting immunodeficiency, but all had decreased immune responses and low T cell counts. These unusual infections suggested the possibility of a previously unknown disease.

    It was noted that all four men were sexually active homosexuals, and in the case series which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine the authors speculated that the immune dysfunction was due to a sexually transmitted infectious agent.

    This was an extraordinarily important case series a detailed description of characteristics of a series of people who all have the same disease that suggested that this new syndrome was associated with sexual activity in male homosexuals. Alerting the medical establishment and proposing a hypothesis was an important milestone in the AIDS epidemic, however, the association could not be securely established based on this small case series.

    It was not known how many other individuals might be suffering from this new syndrome. It was also not known what the prevalence of homosexuality might be in others with this syndrome or how this might compare to the overall prevalence of homosexuality in the population that gave rise to the cases.

    As a result, this case series could not securely establish a valid association. Nevertheless, it laid the ground work for subsequent case-control studies and cohort studies analytic studies that did establish the risk factors for this disease. Example: Oral Contraceptives and Hepatocellular Carcinoma? There had been a number of case reports of liver cancers in young women taking oral contraceptives. A study was undertaken by contacting all of the cancer registries collaborating with the American College of Surgeons.

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    The investigators wanted to collect information on as many of these rare liver tumors as possible across the US. What conclusions can you draw from these data regarding a possible increased risk of liver cancer in woman taking oral contraceptives? Think about it before you look at the answer.

    Key Concept: The key to identifying a case series is that all of the subjects included in the study have the primary disease or outcome of interest. For example, an article reported on people who got bird flu. The article might present tables and graphs that gave information about their age, occupation, where they lived, whether they lived or died, etc.

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    Cross-sectional surveys assess the prevalence of disease and the prevalence of risk factors at the same point in time and provide a "snapshot" of diseases and risk factors simultaneously in a defined population. For example, US government agencies periodically send out large surveys to random samples of the US population, asking about health status and risk factors and behaviors at that point in time.

    The health questionnaires you are asked to fill out when you go to a new physician or being processed for a new job, or prior to entry into military service are similar to cross-sectional surveys in that they ask about the health problems that you have heart disease? Do you smoke? What is your occupation? Cross-sectional surveys ask people their current status with respect to both exposures and diseases.

    This results in two main disadvantages. Consider the following example in which a survey was conducted among white male farm workers. The survey asked many questions, but among them were the questions: "Have you been told you have coronary heart disease CHD? Prevalence of CHD. Note that the investigators did not follow these subjects over a period of time, so they did not assess the "incidence" of heart disease.

    Instead, they asked the subjects questions designed to determine the prevalence of heart disease, i. When they divided the sample into physically active and inactive farmers and computed the prevalence of heart disease in each of these, they found that CHD was much more prevalent among the inactive farmers. However, this was a cross-sectional study that related the prevalence of disease to the prevalence of activity at a point in time.

    They did not follow subjects over time to track the development of heart disease i. Consequently, the temporal relationship between the risk factor of interest physical inactivity and the outcome CHD is unclear. Had the farmers been physically active prior to developing CHD? Or, did they begin to limit their physical activity after they developed CHD? Consequently physical inactivity could have been either a cause of heart disease, or it could have been a consequence of CHD.



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