The greatest difficulty today is to understand who is preying you and who is praying for you. Personal interaction is a fine balance of trust and suspicion. A lesson learnt the hard way, we shouldn’t be too trusting of people – even those you know, as this may allow malevolent individuals to take advantage of our blind trust.
On the other hand however, we can’t exactly go through life suspiciously doubting and scrutinizing everyone we know at all times — that would be sheer paranoia.
To survive safely yet sanely, the trick is to find a middle ground between trust and suspicion. In order to reach that state it is important to recognize the warning signs. . A heightened sense of awareness can help you know when to be suspicious, and when to let your guard down a little.
Before we talk about the warning signs of a situation or a person to be wary of, we need to first understand a general modus operandi of such individuals. Essentially such people take our human nature and turn it against us – A clever manipulation of the natural human tendency to trust. This type of technique is known as “Social Engineering”. By definition Social Engineering is – the use of centralized planning in an attempt to manage social change and regulate the future development and behaviour of a society.
As you can see by definition Social Engineering may not necessarily be negative, we all have been using it to an extent as – good social engineers, Parents, Doctors, Criminal Psychologists, Negotiators, Sales-persons, Diplomats, Whistle-blowers, Magicians. But it gets filthy when it is used to influence a person’s actions such that they are not in his/her interest but are fulfilling some of the influencer’s interests in fact. Bad Social Engineers – Fraudsters, Confidence tricksters, Malicious-insiders, Espionage agents, Double-agents, Blackmailers, Human traffickers, Terrorists.
Whilst we all have read and heard enough to not trust strangers with our personal information. The difficult ones are the ones you know. Some warning signs when the social engineer is from your known circle (these are the ones we suspect less):
1. Someone is trying to get too close too fast.
2. Being overly nice and splurging you with favors/goodies. Especially drinks because some people tend to talk more when drunk.
3. Use smooth talking / emotional bonding to get access to your information, passwords etc.
Social Engineering and its use in the world of financial and personal frauds is the advent of those who understood Hacking a human is much easier than hacking a business.
Essentially there are 4 basic steps in any “Social Engineering” plan – Information gathering, Relationship development, Exploitation, Execution.
With the advent of social media and big data – Information gathering has become one of the simplest tasks in the list.
Let us look at precautionary measures that you can take to stay safe of social engineering attacks.
1. Be mindful of the level of information you share on Social media.
2. Use the “sharing with privacy” options in your favor when you want to share some stuff that may not be wise to share with all.
3. DO NOT click on strange links, even if the mail has come in from a known source.
4. Be aware of pressure techniques used on fraudulent phone calls – No government agency will ask you to make payment via a phone call. Take time to go visit the agency or call them back.
Remember the number displayed on your phone is not a reliable point of verification that can be manipulated.
5. Be cautious with whom you get drinks with, if doing it with people you are not very close to, keep your limits and embed within your psyche that talking certain matters in public are forbidden.
6. Remember do not be lured by the charm of the “Social Engineer’s”. These people are generally quite socially attractive and if such a person gives you attention there are high chances of getting lured into giving more than what you would otherwise do.
However, whilst there are people who are trying to use the key fundamentals of humanity against humans and hence driving away the left over trust and kindness from our species, we do not have to necessarily let them succeed. We just need to be cautious and take care of ourselves first ensuring that we do not let ourselves be played with, whilst still retaining our elements of compassion and kindness.