Mike's random thoughts and ramblings

Greed as a prime motivator

I found this article the other day about the teen in Great Britain who managed to completely dupe a bunch of airline executives in believing that he was a millionaire who was looking to buy into their company and expand it. The key to the attack is that greed was the prime motivator in the attack. From the article:

"When asked how he had managed to fool them, one of the airline execs in Jersey stated:

“If they were real then there would have been opportunities for us to expand our business and that’s not the sort of thing we are going to ignore.”"

That quote is the key to it all - we can all learn something from this executive. The problem is that the higher ups in this company were willing to throw caution to the wind when granted a potential for monetary gain. Of course they’d love to expand their company, but at the cost of ignoring security and inviting the con-artist into their inner sanctum?

The question is would this executive also be answering a phishing email like the one I got from Jassay Goran in the Solomon Islands that promised me I’d get $8.5 million if I followed a few simple steps? People involved in social engineering are often extremely bright, inventive and ingratiating - as I have said repeatedly in talks, social engineering is primarily a crime of the imagination. Note that in his explanation and defense of his actions, the executive used the phrase, “if they were real,” as the pretext for his action. Anytime someone does that, they’re taking a big chance with that little word “if.”

I’ll comment more on this article and overall story in a later blog. I think there’s something to be learned from a fact that’s recently been reported about this 17-year old—he has Autism. Also, this story really makes me reconsider the whole topic of user education. More thoughts after the pre-Blackhat rush settles a tad.

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Michael Murray

Michael Murray