The hackers themselves teach social engineering from a psychological point-of-view, emphasizing how to create the perfect psychological environment for the attack. Basic methods of persuasion include: impersonation, ingratiation, conformity, diffusion of responsibility, and plain old friendliness. Regardless of the method used, the main objective is to convince the person disclosing the information that the social engineer is in fact a person that they can trust with that sensitive information. The other important key is to never ask for too much information at a time, but to ask for a little from each person in order to maintain the appearance of a comfortable relationship.

Impersonation generally means creating some sort of character and playing out the role. The simpler the role, the better. Sometimes this could mean just calling up, saying: Hi, Im Joe in MIS and I need your password, but that doesnt always work. Other times, the hacker will study a real individual in an organization and wait until that person is out of town to impersonate him over the phone. According to Bernz, a hacker who has written extensively on the subject, they use little boxes to disguise their voices and study speech patterns and org charts. d say its the least likely type of impersonation attack because it takes the most preparation, but it does happen.

Some common roles that may be played in impersonation attacks include: a repairman, IT support, a manager, a trusted third party (for example, the Presidents executive assistant who is calling to say that the President okayed her requesting certain information), or a fellow employee. In a huge company, this is not that hard to do. There is no way to know everyone - IDs can be faked. Most of these roles fall under the category of someone with authority, which leads us to ingratiation. Most employees want to impress the boss, so they will bend over backwards to provide required information to anyone in power.

Conformity is a group-based behavior, but can be used occasionally in the individual setting by convincing the user that everyone else has been giving the hacker the same information now requested, such as if the hacker is impersonating an IT manager. When hackers attack in such a way as to diffuse the responsibility of the employee giving the password away, that alleviates the stress on the employee.

When in doubt, the best way to obtain information in a social engineering attack is just to be friendly. The idea here is that the average user wants to believe the colleague on the phone and wants to help, so the hacker really only needs to be basically believable. Beyond that, most employees respond in kind, especially to women. Slight flattery or flirtation might even help soften up the target employee to co-operate further, but the smart hacker knows when to stop pulling out information, just before the employee suspects anything odd. A smile, if in person, or a simple �thank you clenches the deal. And if thats not enough, the new user routine often works too: Im confused, (batting eyelashes) can you help me?

Reverse Social Engineering

A final, more advanced method of gaining illicit information is known as reverse social engineering. This is when the hacker creates a personal that appears to be in a position of authority so that employees will ask him for information, rather than the other way around. If researched, planned and executed well, reverse social engineering attacks may offer the hacker an even better chance of obtaining valuable data from the employees; however, this requires a great deal of preparation, research, and pre-hacking to pull off.

According to Methods of Hacking: Social Engineering, a paper by Rick Nelson, the three parts of reverse social engineering attacks are sabotage, advertising, and assisting. The hacker sabotages a network, causing a problem arise. That hacker then advertises that he is the appropriate contact to fix the problem, and then, when he comes to fix the network problem, he requests certain bits of information from the employees and gets what he really came for. They never know it was a hacker, because their network problem goes away and everyone is happy.