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Unmasking the Social Engineer: The Human Element of Security 1st Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 000-1118608577
ISBN-10: 1118608577
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Editorial Reviews

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Christopher Hadnagy
The Science of Nonverbal Communication with the Art of Social Engineering

Most researchers agree that a large portion of what we communicate is done not through what we say, but how it is said. A combination of our facial expressions, body language, vocal tone and other indicators can tell the receiver our intent, our emotional content and the meaning behind the message. Our brains take in these queues and then decide how we will react to them. We, without thought, decide to trust someone based on their posture, smile and body language. We feel uneasy or distant from someone else for the lack of smile or aggressive body language. Understanding this not only has many implications to communication, but it has some serious security implications, too.


What is Nonverbal Communication?
  • Kinesics: This term essentially describes body language and how our bodies can give away the emotion we are feeling
  • Proxemics: This term concerns our use of the space around us and how it can indicate comfort or discomfort
  • Touch: Our sense of touch goes a long way in communicating to our brains what's going on around us, and, in the same way, can communicate emotions to others
  • Eye Contact: You may have heard the phrase, "The eyes are the windows to the soul," and it's true, the eyes can give clues away about our emotional state
  • Olfactics: This is the study of smell and how our bodies associate certain smells with emotions and feelings
  • Adornment: Clothing, jewelry, make up, and even hair can set us apart and tells people about us without words
  • Facial Expressions: The human face holds a lot of information about what we are feeling; it can tell a whole story without words

Which expression is happy and which is full of fear? It's all in the eyes.
Implications to Communication - and Security

Some studies suggest more than 50 percent of communication is nonverbal. Truthfully, though, it's hard to attach a real percentage to this phenomenon because it changes according to the type of communication, its purpose, toward whom it is directed, and many other factors. Regardless, most researchers agree that if a percentage could be attached to nonverbal communication, it would be quite high.

Researchers like Dr. Ekman and Dr. Paul Zak have found how facial expressions and body language can create a strong bond with other people, developing trust and rapport quickly. While this is important for building relationships and strong bonds, it is also used by the con man and social engineers to gain compliance to actions that you should not take.

Education is the Key

As “Unmasking the Social Engineer” discusses these implications in depth, a question I often get asked is, “If we react automatically, if it is really chemical reactions, then how can we be protected and secure?”

This is an excellent question with a very simple, yet difficult answer – education. If we remain unknowledgeable about the methods that are used or the psychology behind them we can never be aware of when malicious methods are being used against us. It is only when you are aware, educated, and taught to recognize these methods that your “auto pilot” can be corrected to not react with auto-compliance but with caution. The goal is not to create paranoia or doubt in every communication you have with another person, but to take the research from some of the world's greatest minds and apply it to security.

From the Back Cover

Combining the science of nonverbal communications with the art of social engineering

Social engineers are experts at getting people to do what they want. The step-by-step instructions in this book will put you in a place to get what you want by understanding what people aren’t telling you. Christopher Hadnagy, Dr. Paul Ekman, and Paul Kelly have joined forces to explain how social engineering works and how you can prevent it. Security is more than just defending against people with malicious intent. It’s about using your knowledge of social engineering and “human hacking” to stay in control of every situation.

Learn to instantly identify nonverbal communication

  • Read people’s body language and facial expressions
  • Learn how malicious hackers gain your trust
  • Think like a “human hacker”
  • Understand the security vulnerabilities beyond your IT infrastructure
  • Review real-world case studies with detailed photos of typical non-verbal behaviors of the social engineer
  • Develop the knowledge and skills to neutralize the growing threat from malicious social engineers
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (February 17, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118608577
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118608579
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Chris Hadnagy, aka loganWHD, has been involved with computers and technology for over 14 years. Presently his focus is on the "human" aspect of technology such as social engineering and physical security. Chris has spent time in providing training in many topics around the globe and also has had many articles published in local, national and international magazines and journals.

For more information see http://www.social-engineer.com

Chris is an student of Paul Ekman's training classes on Microexpressions and has spent time learning and educating others on the values of nonverbal communications. He has combined what he learned with years of experience in a new research he has called Neuro Linguistic Hacking(NLH) that combines nonverbal communications as well as the principles of the controversial study on NLP to influence other peoples emotions.

He is also the lead developer of Social-Engineer.Org as well as a the author of the best-selling book, Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking.

He has launched a line of professional social engineering training and pen testing services at Social-Engineer.Com. His goal is to help companies remain secure by educating them on the methods the "bad guys" use. Analyzing, studying, dissecting then performing the very same attacks used by malicious hackers on some of the most recent attacks (i.e. Sony, HB Gary, LockHeed Martin, etc), Chris is able to help companies stay educated and secure.

Chris runs one of the webs most successful security podcasts, The Social-Engineer.Org Podcast which spends time each monthly analyzing someone who has to use influence and persuasion in their daily lives. By dissecting what they do, we can learn how we can enhance our abilities. That same analysis runs over to the equally popular SEORG Newsletter. After two years, both of these have become a staple in most serious security practices and are used by Fortune 500 companies around the world to educate their staff. Chris can be found online at www.social-engineer.org, www.social-engineer.com and twitter as @humanhacker.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In his first book, Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking, author Christopher Hadnagy wrote the definitive book on social engineering. In it, he detailed the entire lifecycle of social engineering and pretty much everything you needed to know on the topic.

In his just released follow-up Unmasking the Social Engineer: The Human Element of Security, he takes social engineering up a few levels. While the first book was more of a practical introduction to the topic, this is an advanced title for the serious practitioner. There is a lot of interesting information and research provided in the book. But the challenge here is not just reading it; rather it is in mastering its practical use.

The book is meant to show the reader how do read a person's body language and facial expressions. By understanding them, it makes social engineering easier, but also defending against social engineering attacks easier also. If you can understand how an attacker uses non-verbal behavior, then you can better defend yourself and your organization against them.

While the first book was about a standard approach to social engineering, this new title can be seen as advanced social engineering. The premise of the book is that in order to effectively and fully deal with and defend against social engineering threats, an understanding of how non-verbal communications is used is important.

The book notes that much of our everyday communications are nonverbal. And as its name implies, nonverbal communication is the process of communicating and understanding messaging via mechanisms such as touch, posture, body language, eye movement, eye contact and more.
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Format: Paperback
SURPRISE NO.1: The author avoids using body language myths and generalizations e.g crossing arms and legs means closed and uncrossed means open. This book is more detailed, the author goes into the theory and research of body language in a way that kept me hooked until the end

SURPRISE NO.2: Although the book is about the human element of security, the information was relevant to many human relationships: co-workers, negotiators, parent to child etc.

WARNING: Don't expect an ordinary book about body language. Yes, the book breaks body language down into sections and examines different parts separately. But it also links non verbal behaviour with how people process emotions and how it's used in techniques such as hijacking the amygdala, nonverbal conversational signals, elicitation and other social engineering skills.

It made me aware that I was seeing business people, politicians, and salesmen etc. using similar techniques. In my experience, for people who are interested in body language, it's one of the rare books that made me set everything aside in order to read it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm very familiar with the author's passion for Social Engineering and all aspects related to it, due to being an avid listener of the Social Engineering podcast. Of course having enjoyed his previous book, I picked this one up right away… well I couldn’t put it down. The main take away i got from the book was realizing this is not just for social engineers, there are a great many practical aspects of non-verbals that apply to daily life; from being more aware of detecting the emotions of loved ones, to noticing the non-verbal tells of those in your professional life... and of course, learning how to become a better human hacker. The illustrations / photos were great, something you can't get from just a written or verbal description. My only complaint is some items were so interesting, I wish they were gone into with more details. The references to the research and sources were well documented, something many similar books lack. Also, for those new to social engineering / influence there are quite a few reviews of the basics yet done in such a way as to be concise and not bore those already familiar... personally I found those items valuable as a quick refresher. Again, great book and really the only one I know of that concentrate on the of non-verbals as applied to social engineering. This is an essential read for the penetration tester / security professional that goes on engagements with human interaction.
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Format: Kindle Edition
An impulse buy on seeing the eminent Paul Ekman's name, I was disappointed when the book arrived to discover he had just written the foreword. It got better after that. The author defines a social engineer as a good communicator not, as claimed on the back cover, "getting people to do what you want" (ie manipulator) but throughout the book he gives examples of brilliant manipulation.

Easy to read, it would need a lot of study to put into practice. Written from the point of view of someone paid to breach business/building security, to find and report on their weak points, he makes it look much easier than it must be.

A complex, concentrated expose of how to interpret a myriad of body language and facial expressions.
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Format: Kindle Edition
As a techie, I found this book to be quite enlightening. Not only did it inform me of how the mind of an attacker would work in these types of scenarios, but also laid things out in a way I could learn from which was quite fun and engaging.

It was a relief to get a way from the technical mumbo-jumbo hacker text and step into the psychology of a social engineer.

Do recommend.
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