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April 16, 2007

Con artists and Social engineering

Filed under: My Life,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 7:47 AM

Yesterday we had a guy come over to our place with a property dealer who said that he was interested in renting the 1st floor of our house (2nd floor for all you Americans). He was very nicely dressed and very confident. We showed him the house and he liked it.

So dad and him sat down with the dealer and talked business. During the talk he mentioned that he had sold his old house for 27 crores (1 followed by 8 zeros) and wanted to build his house so he wanted to rent the place till his house was build. He kept talking about important people and how well he knew them. Overall he seemed like a nice guy so the deal was finalized and he said that he would have someone come over in a day or so to install AC’s and he would move in by the 20th.

Then he left and went to the property dealer’s office. Over there the dealer asked him to make a token payment so that he could start on the paperwork. Now the guy told him that he had left his wallet at home so he didn’t have any cash on him, so the guy asked for his visiting card but he gave the same excuse “No wallet so no card also…”. Then the property dealer told him that they should go to his house to have a cup of coffee and he could make the payment then, and the guy agreed. So they took the dealer’s car and drove to his place. He had given his address as B-152 (Which is the same as our address, but we put it as coincidence)

When they reached the market near his house he asked the dealer to park the car and got out of the car, then he calmly asked for the dealer’s phone so that “he could call the servant outside” and the dealer gave him the phone… While he was parking the car the dealer remembered that the guy had his own phone so why did he want his cell phone so he looked around for the guy but by that time he had already disappeared. So he asked for directions to B-152 and thats when he found out that he was in D block and B block was far off. The guy had disappeared with a Rs 35,000 phone (~ $750). When he asked around the dealer found that this guy has been conning property dealers for a while and keeps stealing their phones..

Now you have to admire the guts of this guy. He came to the dealer asking to buy a house but settled for renting one till he built his own. Then he came to our house looked at the place and was really confident about the whole thing. It was only when he was about to be exposed he calmly absconded with the phone.

In social engineering its all about confidence. The most successful con artists and social engineers are supremely confident. In most cases if you act like you know what you are doing and have every right to be there no one will bother you. Seen it myself at hotels and office buildings. When I know where I am going and confidently walk towards it I have rarely been asked for an ID its only when you are nervous that you get stopped.

For a very good example of social engineering watch this show called “Supernatural” its about these brothers who hunt supernatural creatures(Monsters). They dont have any legal authority to poke around murders/incidents but every time they pose as cops/doctors/psychiatrists/plumbers/whatever to get the victims relatives/friends to talk to them or to gather intel. They are so confident when posing as someone else that no one realizes that they are fakes.

Most of the times the hackers don’t hack systems by decoding the passwords after an all-nighter session of coding, they get it by sweet talking some gullible person into telling them their password. As always humans are the weakest like in any security chain.

Well that was my encounter with a con artist/thief. Will post more later.

- Suramya

3 Comments »

3 Responses to " Con artists and Social engineering "

  1. be careful – he knows our house’s layout now.

    Comment by subhi — April 17, 2007 @ 10:48 PM

  2. True… But so do a lot of other people who had come to look at the house for rent.

    - Suramya

    Comment by Suramya — April 20, 2007 @ 2:57 PM

  3. [...] In social engineering its all about confidence. The most successful con artists and social engineers are supremely confident. In most cases if you act like you know what you are doing and have every right to be there no one will bother … …more [...]

    Pingback by engineering » Blog Archive » Howard Hampton on the "science" of social engineering — May 20, 2007 @ 7:14 PM

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