Category: social engineering

“Criminals don’t wear suits”

Once upon a time, in a land not-so-far-away, a small group of individuals walked to the doors of a multinational corporation, and walked out with millions of dollars worth of company secrets and assets.

Through days of patient research and study, they were well equipped to work their way through the company, obtaining small pieces of information and compiling it into unmitigated access. Could this happen to you?

First, they learned the names of key employees by calling Human Resources and social engineering the information from them. They would have preferred to find a company phone roster in the dumpster, but no one had thrown one away lately. Although the passwords and internal memos that they did find certainly helped cushion the blow.

This company had a very friendly climate, and prided itself on hiring friendly and courteous employees. The friendly employee at the entrance was more than happy to hold the door for one of the individuals when he jogged to catch the closing door. Why not? Criminals don’t wear suits and ties, right? They got inside the moat.

Another friendly employee was more than happy to help out the stressed out intern who lost his access badge on the first day, and just had to get the report to his boss before he gets fired! Why not? Were all on the same team, right?

No matter how strong a castles walls, it does no good once the enemy’s inside.

Inside the secure area, they found a gold mine of unshredded documents both in the trash and piled by the shredder. In a stroke of inspiration, a hastily scrawled note was placed on a busy shredder: Shredder out of order. Put materials in this box to be picked up by security. Also, traditional hacking techniques allowed unrestricted access to key computer systems, which is often superfluous if the password is written down and hidden. (No one would ever know that this is my password, even if they do look in the drawer!)

Lucky for them, the CEO had let them know (through his out of office auto reply) that he would be gone that day. His assistant was very helpful when the new janitor forgot his keys and had to stay on schedule!

Could it get worse than this? It very well could. There’s a good chance that your organization may never suffer a planned, organized intrusion such as this. But basic OPSEC, often at little or no cost to the organization, can help prevent such a disaster. Never forget how important you are!

Vacation

Pop Quiz time fellow OPSECers:

Q: Which of the following is the BEST example of an out-of-office statement for your work email?

A: I’m not in. Don’t know where I’m going. Don’t know how long I’ll be gone. Don’t know when I’m coming back – and neither do you. OPSEC Baby! I will be checking email daily.

B: I am currently out of the office for 14 glorious days. I finally got my vacation approved and I’m taking the little woman, Junior and baby girl to the Atlantis Resort (and casino!!). For any security issues don’t even think about contacting me! Instead, please contact Regional Security Manager Susie Smith at (555)-555-1234. BTW: she is also the SAP coordinator. Assuming I actually come back to work (ha-ha) all emails will be addressed on my return.

C: I am currently out of the office. If you need immediate assistance please contact Joe Smith at (555)-555-1234.

D: I am on travel until the first of next month. I’m attending a classified conference which means I won’t have my laptop during the conference (8am – 5pm each day). I can’t even check during lunch so I’ll be leaving my laptop in my hotel room but I promise to get back to you after 5pm. If you really need to contact me call the Springfield Marriott and ask for me (room 209), Steve Jones (room 426) or Joey Smith (room 427) and they’ll put you through. For those of you working on Project Nighttrain – I won’t have access to JWICS or SIPR until I get back so don’t bother sending anything to those accounts. Have a great day.

Assuming I don’t have to actually give you the correct answer I surely hope you get the point. What you put in your out-of-office statement – or your voicemail message – must be free of sensitive information. This also speaks to need-to-know. There are a multitude of reasons why this is important and a multitude of ways an adversary could exploit your information – suffice to say that you need to heed this advice. Keep your out-of-office email statements and your voicemail recordings short and to the point. Don’t include any information that doesn’t absolutely need to be there.

Keep the Faith!
Revelator

Vacation – The Go-Go’s

Even if it quacks like a duck…

…it might not be a duck.

Your adversary isn’t going to be honest about who they are or what they’re after. If they were, they wouldn’t be in business for very long! Instead, they’re often going to pretend to be something you trust or expect.

  • Be wary when receiving unsolicited phone calls, emails, or visits, especially if the person contacting you is asking for information you wouldn’t reveal to a stranger. Verify their identity before giving them anything
  • Don’t give out personal information about employees or non-public information about your company. Both are common targets for corporate spies or competitors
  • Don’t respond to emails asking for financial information or prompting you to log in, and don’t trust links in emails. If you feel the email may be legitimate, contact the sender using their public contact information to confirm
  • Make sure that websites are secure before sending any sensitive information. Whenever possible, encrypt it first
  • Double-check the URL before submitting information via the web. There’s a big difference between www.yourbank.com and www.yourbank.co.
  • Keep your antivirus and antimalware software up-to-date. Install and use a firewall

Social engineers rely on the mental shortcuts that we tend to form. We see someone with a clipboard, and we assume they’re here on official business. We get an email or phone call with very dire warnings (“The IRS is going to have me arrested??”), and we naturally want to solve those problems as quickly as possible.

Whenever someone seems to want you to feel or act a certain way, especially when it’s with a sense of urgency, stop and think about what they’re actually trying to get you to do. When you do that, you break the social engineer’s script and are less likely to fall victim to their techniques.