July 11, 2016
“You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear”
– Sherlock Holmes
The Social Engineering topic is a subject that’s as fascinating as its concerning.
Social Engineering is a tool that is used to influence individuals/people to take specific actions. These actions could be positive or negative depending on the intent of the social engineer.
This topic came of extreme interest to me after reading the book Tavistock Institute – Social Engineering The Masses by Daniel Estulin. In that particular book, the author deals with Social Engineering, but at a large scale where it is the goals of institutions to influence cultures/nation states et al, and not in a positive way one might add.
Unmasking The Social Engineer – The Human Element Of Security by Christopher Hadnagy deals with Social Engineering at an individual level, which is greatly appreciated since nigh nobody touches this topic, but its adverse effects are innumerable.
In this particular book the author does an exemplary job of outlining many of the instances and subtle, or no so subtle idiosyncracies that will end up influencing how people feel, one way or another. If a particular individual is savvy enough, these behaviours will help that individual become a better communicator, and possibly a better person.
On the flip side of that, this particular skillset can also be used for detrimental purposes. This is why the author notes that its vital for people not only to know how emotions couple with social engineering techniques, but how one can use them for positive and defensive circumstances.
Many people feel a bit recent about there being a book such as this on how to influence people, and rightly so. The author tackles that concern rather trenchantly:
“We can’t defend properly without knowing how to attack. If the first time you get punched is your first real fight, it will most likely end badly for you. That is why people take lessons in how to fight and defend themselves.”
Hadnagy makes it a point of making sure the reader understands that the techniques employed in the book are vital to becoming a better communicator, but more importantly, a better listener, which will inherently increase the quality of life.
Unmasking The Social Engineer is a veritable crashcourse into a kaleidoscope of abilities that are the disposal of people if they realize the effects that can be expected from individuals. Many of these effects take place through what’s known as amygdala hijacking.
In respect to that, as the author concerningly notes:
“When the emotional processor [the amygdala] kicks into high gear, the logic center processors [neocortex] get almost turned off and blocked. Adrenaline, hormone levels, and blood pressure rise, and our memories become less efficient. We begin to lose our ability to communicate effectively, and we turn to a form of autopilot to make decisions.”[Bold Emphasis Added]
To add additional grist for the mill, Hadnagy further notes:
“Our brains are hardwired to mirror the emotional content we see from those around us, so it is logical to say that if the social engineer can show mild sadness signs, those signs will trigger empathy in the person they are dealing with. Once empathy is triggered, and if those social engineer’s words and story create an emotional bond with those words, then the rational and logic centers in the brain shut down momentarily. This leaves the full processing power of our brain focused on the emotional center, so as a decision is being made based on the request, what is reasonable goes out the window.” [Bold Emphasis Added]
Those facts, along with other salient points, are a large reason of why individuals need to be cognizant when their emotions might be subject to be played like a fiddle.
Another great aspect of this book is that Hadnagy references the work of Dr. Paul Eckman, who has been at the tip of the spear in the area of emotional behaviour and individual idiosyncracies. Two books that couple well to this book are, Emotions Revealed, and Unmasking The Face. While these books obviously do not need to be read in order to understand Unmasking The Social Engineer, but they offer extreme depth in this abstruse subject for those interested in delving deeper into this intriguing pool of psychological/physiological data.
The book showcases various components of an individual’s behavior repertoire, and synthesizes it all in an easy to understand matter that’s very pragmatic.
Taking into account the totality and depth of this book, this should not only be compulsory reading for those interested in the intricacies of social engineering, but should be something that everyone should make a point to learn given the vital aspects it plays within safety and communications.
 by Christopher Hadnagy, Unmasking The Social Engineer – The Human Element Of Security by Christopher Hadnagy, pg. 204.
 Ibid., pg. 166.
 Ibid., pg. 173.
Other Suggested Reading:
Thinking, Fast & Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Mass Control – Engineering Human Consciousness by Jim Keith
Emotions Revealed by Dr. Paul Ekman
Unmasking The Face by Dr. Paul Ekman and Friesen
Snap – Making The Most Of First Impressions, Body Language & Charisma by Patti Wood