Subliminal Hacking
The Art and Science of Social Engineering


September 7, 2010

Social Engineering Zombies… Getting people playing your game

In the wonderful world of InfoSec we often talk about zombies, and the associated botnet zombie army. With our army of machines we can do our evil bidding, and wreak havoc upon the unexpected users of the Interwebs.

So what has this got to do with social engineering? Well I was talking to Jayson Street last week about some of the techniques I have used to get information and assistance from people on the inside of an organisation to help me with an engagement, and I kind of a likened this to creating my own little army of zombies who are willing to do my bidding when asked.

So I will just talk you through a few scenarios, you can then use this information to help formulate your own approach on engagements, and use this information to enhance your training and awareness around social engineering.

One of the key things to realise when you are looking to do anything that requires influencing and manipulating people, is that we are all going about life playing our own game, or if you are an NLP fan, operating in your own frame. So when we want someone to accommodate our requests, we need to get them to stop playing their game, and start playing ours. We need to re-frame


One of my most successful approaches to this is social engineering is the use of the fake, and slightly altered get out of jail free letter. This letter will start off with congratulating the individual on challenging you, and to then further explain a modified story of what the engagement is, and that they can now be brought into the circle of trust and help facilitate.

This does a few things. First of all we are starting with positive acknowledgement of success. We all like to be told when we have done well, and having this confirmed in written form as well as verbally is a double whammy. You may even want to take this opportunity to anchor the positive emotions for later use. Next we are given formal written approval to help out on this engagement, so it must be official, and now feel abit more important. Lastly, and I think this is my favourite part; they are in brought into the circle of trust. No one likes anything more than to be part of the secret squirrel brigade, it’s all hush hush and James Bond like.

I find this approach works especially well with security guards. So then you have your zombie, who has internal knowledge and access to most areas within the facility.

Another approach is that of rapport and conformity. This approach requires time invested outside of the targeted facility. The recon process is essential, so you will build up a good understanding of the company, the various departments, and some key senior names etc. You then identify a common location where employees gather. This could be a lunch time or after work cafe or pub, basically somewhere that over time you can have a high level of certainty you will have the same people appear repeatedly.

The next stage is then to build up some rapid friendships, familiarity and some form of common ground. Everyone’s approach here is different, however as I have mentioned before I use the mentalism and beer route, on the premise that most people like a drink, and magic.

So from here people will see me doing different demos in that environment, work your way around to the target, whilst building up their interest. At the appropriate time you start interacting, showing the individuals something interesting, and getting people laughing and having a good time. We like people who make us laugh, and we like people who we consider to be similar to ourselves. Now is the opportunity to also ask information about them, where they work, what department etc, this is achieving confirmation of your research, and is building up rapport. You can then reciprocate with false information about you recently joining the company also, and mentalism etc is your hobby when you’re not working it such and such department.

Now we have a new friend. Friends look out for each other. We can use this friend to get abit more information about the business, strengths and weaknesses. Now when we look to get into the company we can utilise our friend, either entering at the same time as them, or having reception call them to verify you.

So there are just two examples of methods you can use to get people playing your game, you may look to use this directly as described or more indirectly and use these techniques for misdirection to assist a colleague to gain entry.

Finally I will give you a hypnotic example of creating your own REAL Zombie utilising the power of the mind.

Those of you who are not familiar with hypnosis may be poo pooing this already, but please read on for enjoyment if nothing more.

So in this scenario I will use the similar approach with making a new friend, or at least building up a relationship that allows me to demonstrate mentalism and hypnotic phenomena.

So I will go through the motion, and assuming the subject is working well with me and what many would class as the more impressive phenomena such as amnesia is working, then I would look to make a post hypnotic suggestion and give amnesia for the suggestion. As an example you could give the suggestion that the next time you meet and say let me in you believe 100% unconditionally that I am authorised to be onsite, and to have access to any areas requested. You then remove conscious memory of this suggestion, in the knowledge that the subconscious will act as expected. If there is going to be a big time gap, it is important to include some time frames in the suggestion also.

The next step is of course to try it. Obviously you have tested other phenomena before giving this post hypnotic suggestion, so you do have a level of confidence, however the brain is a strange and mysterious things, and many things can impact the work you have done before hand. So as with all social engineering engagements, have a plan B, C, D, etc.

The longest I have gone between giving a post hypnotic suggestion, and executing it is a week, however in theory with the correct instruction and intent it should work weeks, months or a years gap. In my experience the less time you leave the suggestion, the more successful the results, however this is no doubt a skill issue with me, practice practice

As with all of this, look to practice with permission, and try things on a less elaborate scale. So try just making friends with people in pubs and cafes to test your rapport building skills. Try and get people to help you out in different situations and environments, get them playing your game. If you interested in the hypnosis side of things, of course most importantly is to learn the foundations first and then build up, then when you are at the right stage, try simple to understand post hypnotic suggestions. Something like when I tap you on the shoulder and ask you for a beer you will believe I have just bought you one and its now your turn. The process for the suggestions are all the same, obviously some have more of an impact if they don’t work than others.

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    About the Author

    Dale Pearson
    has worked in IT since 1998, Infosec since 2004, and studied and performed hypnosis, mentalism etc since 2009. Dale is a full time Red Teamer with a love of social engineering and qualified hypnotherapist. He spends a great deal of time researching the various skills and techniques that make up the art and science of Social Engineering.


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