The Art of Deception
is about gaining someone's trust by lying to them and then abusing that trust for fun and profit. Hackers use the euphemism "social engineering" and hacker-guru Kevin Mitnick examines many example scenarios.
After Mitnick's first dozen examples anyone responsible for organisational security is going to lose the will to live. It's been said before but people and security are antithetical. Organisations exist to provide a good or service and want helpful friendly employees to promote the good or service. People are social animals who want to be liked. Controlling the human aspects of security means denying someone something. This circle can't be squared.
Considering Mitnick's reputation as a hacker guru the least and last point of attack for hackers using social engineering are computers. Most of the scenarios in The Art of Deception work just as well against computer-free organisations and were probably known to the Pheonicians. Technology simply makes it all easier. Phones are faster than letters after all and large organisations mean dealing with lots of strangers.
Much of Mitnick's security advice sounds practical until you think about implementation, when you realise more effective security means reducing organisational efficiency: an impossible trade in competitive business. And anyway, who wants to work in an organisation where the rule is "Trust no one"? Mitnick shows how easily security is breached by trust, but without trust people can't live and work together. In the real world effective organisations have to acknowledge total security is a chimera--and carry more insurance. --Steve Patient
--This text refers to the
a fascinating read ( ForTean Times
, June 2004)
"...a lot of interesting cautionary tales..." (New Scientist, January 2004)