what you don't know can hurt you


Posted Aug 17, 1999

THE COMPLETE SOCIAL ENGINEERING FAQ! Excellent text written by bernz, a good personal friend and a master social engineer/bullshit artist. Turn your head for a second and your wife is in his bed!

tags | paper
MD5 | cf4412428011c1c303fb400f420dec0e


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"There's a sucker born every minute." PT Barnum

"Don't touch me, sucka." Mr. T

By bernz (official sponsor of the 1996 Croatian Olympic Men's Synchronized Swimming Team)
with shoutouts to: The Genocide2600, Silicon Toad and your big fat mama.


1.1 What is social engineering?
1.2 Why is there a FAQ about it?
1.3 Who cares?
1.4 Basic intro and other shit.

2.1 Basics
2.2 Equipment
2.3 Phreak stuff
2.4 Technique

3.1 Is Snail Mail acutally usefull for something?
3.2 Equipment
3.3 Technique

4.1 Isn't this just hacking?

5.1 In person?
5.2 Equipment
5.3 I'm wearing a suit, now what?

A sample problem

1.1 What is social engineering?

The hacker's jargon dictionary says this:

Social Engineering: n. Term used among crackers and samurai for cracking
techniques that rely on weaknesses in wetware rather than software; the aim
is to trick people into revealing passwords or other information that
compromises a target system's security. Classic scams include phoning up a
mark who has the required information and posing as a field service tech or a
fellow employee with an urgent access problem.

This is true. Social engineering, from a narrow point of view, is
basically phone scams which pit your knowledge and wits against another human.
This technique is used for a lot of things, such as gaining passwords,
keycards and basic information on a system or organization.

1.2 Why is there a FAQ about it?

Good question. I'm glad I asked. I made this for a few reasons. The
first being that Social Engineering is rarely discussed. People discuss
cracking and phreaking a lot, but the forum for social engineering ideas is
stagnant at best. Hopefully this will help generate more discussion. I also
find that social engineering specialists get little respect, this will show
ignorant hackers what we go through to get passwords. The last reason is
honestly for a bit of Neophyte training. Just another DOC for them to read so
I don't get bogged with email.

1.3 Who Cares?

To Neophytes: You should, you little fuck. If you think the world of
computers and security opens up to you through a keyboard and your redbox then
you are so fucking dead wrong. Good. Go to your school, change your grades and
be a "badass" hacker. Hacking, like real life, exists in more than just your
system. You can't use proggies to solve everything. I don't mean to sound
upset, but jesus, have a bit of innovation and a sense of adventure.

To Experienced Hackers: Just thought it would help a bit.

1.4 Basic intro and shit for this document.

This FAQ will address phone techniques, mail techniques, internet
techniques and live techniques. I will discuss Equipment and will put some
scripts of actual conversations from social engineering. There are times I
might discuss things that cross the line into phreaking or traditional
hacking. Don't send me email and say that my terms aren't correct and
blahblahblah isn't social engineering. I use them for convenience and lack of
better methods of explanation (eg I might say "dumpster diving is a form of
social engineering") Don't get technical.


2.1 Basics

This is probably the most common social engineering technique. It's
quick, painless and the lazy person can do it. No movement, other than fingers
is necessary. Just call the person and there you go. Of course it gets more
complicated than that.

2.2 What Equipment is necessary for this?

The most important peice of hardware is your wetware. You have to have a
damn quick mind. As far as physical Equipment goes, a phone is necessary. Do
not have call waiting as this will make you sound less believeable. There is
no real reason why this does but getting beeped in the middle of a scam just
throws off the rhythym. The phone should be good quality and try to avoid
cordless, unless you never get static on them. Some phones have these great
buttons that make office noise in the background.
Caller ID units are helpful if you pull off a scam using callback. You
don't want to be expecting your girlfriend and pick up the phone and say, "I
wanna fuck you" only to find out it was an IBM operator confirming your
identity. Operators don't want to have sex with you and so your scam is
fucked. Besides, call ID units are just cool because you can say, "Hello,
<blank>" when someone calls. The Radio Slut carries these pretty cheap.
Something I use is a voice changer. It makes my voice sound deeper than
James Earl Jones or as high as a woman. This is great if you can't change your
pitch very well and you don't want to sound like a kid (rarely helpful). Being
able to change gender can also be very helpful (see technique below). I got
one for a gift from Sharper Image. This means that brand will cost quite a bit
of cash, but it's very good quality. If anyone knows of other brand of voice changers, please inform me.

2.3 Phreaking and Social engineering?

Social Engineering and phreaking cross lines quite a lot. The most
obvious reasons are because phreaks need to access Ma Bell in other ways but
computers. They use con games to draw info out of operators.
Redboxing, greenboxing and other phreaking techniques can be used to
avoid the phone bills that come with spending WAAAAYYY too much time on the
phone trying to scam a password. Through the internet, telnetting to
california is free. Through ma bell, it's pricey. I say making phone calls
from payphones is fine, but beware of background noise. Sounding like you're
at a payphone can make you sound pretty unprofessional. Find a secluded phone
booth to use.

2.4 How do I pull off a social engineering with a phone?

First thing is find your mark. Let's say you want to hit your school.
Call the acedemic computer center (or its equivelent). Assuming you already
have an account, tell them you can't access your account. At this point they
might do one of two things. If they are stupid, which you hope they are, they
will give you a new password. Under that precept, they'll do that for most
people. Simply finger someone's account, specifically a faculty member. At
this point, use your voice changer when you call and imitate that teacher the
best you can. People sound different over the phone, so you'll have a bit of
Try to make the person you're imitating a female (unless you are a female). Most of the
guys running these things will give anything to a good sounding woman because the majority of
the guys running minicomputers are social messes. Act like a woman (using voice changer) and
you'll have anything you want from them.
Most of the time the people working an area will ask for some sort of
verification for your identity, often a social security number. You should
find out as much information about a mark as you can (see mail and live
techniques) before you even think about getting on the phone. If you say you
are someone you aren't and then they ask you for verification you don't have,
they will be suspicious and it will be infinitely more difficult to take that
Once people believe you are someone, get as much as you can about the
system. Ask for your password, ask for telnet numbers, etc. Do not ask for too
much as it will draw suspicion.
You must sound like a legitimate person. Watch your mark. Learn to speak
like him/her. Does that person use contractions? Does that person say "like" a
lot? Accent? Lisp?
The best way for observation of speech is to call the person as a
telemarketer or telephone sweepstakes person. Even if they just tell you they
can't talk to you, you can learn a quite a bit from the way they speak. If
they actually want to speak to you, you can use that oppurtunity to glean
information on them. Tell them they won something and you need their address
and social security number and other basic info.



3.1 Is snail mail really useful?

Yes. It actually is. Snail mail is not tapped. Snail mail is cheap.
Snail mail is readily available. But how can you use it in social
engineering. As I said above, it's difficult to find systems that just let
you call with no verification. They do exist but they are rare. So
therefore you need info on your mark and the mark's system. You can try the
telemarketing scam, but that isn't always succesful, as people do not trust
telemarketers. For some reason, though, people trust the written word.
Morons. People will respond to sweepstakes forms with enthusiasm and will
give you whatever info you want on it. That's why snail mail is so great.

3.2 What do I need?

Obviously you need mail "equpiment" which includes stamps and envelopes. But subtle
things are required as well. You're going to want to have return address stickers that include
"your company's" logo and name. This can be procured at places like Staples, Office Max and
other stores for a realitively cheap price.
The most important part to mail social engineering is a layout program. WordPerfect is
okay, but I prefer QuarkXpress or PageMaker. These programs are not cheap, but can be used for
plenty of other applications and are well worth their price. IF YOU GET IT PIRATED, I DON'T
ADVOCATE THAT ACTION. With these DTP programs, you can emmulate a tottaly
professional document. More about this below.
A private mailbox is good. If you want to be very professional, get a PO box. I'm in a
band, so I use that PO box. They can be rented at a variety of places, including Post Offices and
MailBoxes, etc. for low fees. Share the cost with others for great cost effectiveness.

3.3 I've got the stuff, now what?

What is your mark? Generally, for a mail social engineer, your mark is going to be a large
group of people. Thus, your mail should look like a mass mail sweepstakes. Use computer labels
and the like to keep this illusion. You need a list of employees from that company and their
Look at the junk mail in your mail. Sweepstakes forms, mail-in orders, etc. Try tofake
that look. Something with very few lines to fill in (but with your vital info on them). A watermark
is always a good touch for these documents. Use the fonts a business would use and word your
letters in a similar fashion. Illusion is everything. The information on these should include social
security numbers. Another good idea is to say that you'll need a password to verify the prize with
a voice call. Hopefully it'll be the same as their net account password. It usually is. Yes, people
actually fall for this stuff.
To make someone fill these out, they must be concise and visually appealling. A person
filling these out cannot be hasseled with difficult choices. Check Boxes are also a nice effect.
These must look believeable. Credibility is everything with social engineering. I cannot stress that
enough. I will soon realease examples, although you should be original and make some on your
Now, after stamping and addressing your letters, send them out and wait. Soon you
should receive some answers. At this point, use a standard phone social engineering. Social
Security numbers are the most common verification. If you find that you need some other form,
send out letters with that information. For example, sometimes mother's maiden name is used.


4.1 Isn't this just a form of hacking?

I guess it is to a point. Hacking takes more advantage of holes in
security while the social engineering takes advantage of holes in people's
common sense. Finding your marks through a hole in the fingering system is
a great way to start an engineer. Many fingers give full names last logins,
login locations and all sorts of info. Find someone who hasn't been on in
quite sometime.
There are also the classic schemes. Pretending to be a sysop in an IRC
or online chat room can make people give up passwords with ease.
Yes, generally actions taken in the Internet or online are considered
traditional hacking, but your knowledge of the average human's wetware
comes into play.


5.1 In person?

Yup. This is pretty damn important. You can do quite a bit over a
phone or through mail, but sometimes you just have to get off your ass and
do things yourself. Getting a password digging through a desk is good, so
is touring an office and just looking around. Even conning your way into a
terminal works.

5.2 Equipment

This is the only time in hacker culture where looks matter a great deal. Don't expect to
walk into VIACOM's offices wearing your Misfits T-shirt with lotsa zits and your walkman
makes you look suspicious. Look dignified. Wear a suit. Comb your hair. Don't get out of hand.
Be polite. If you want to look like you belong in that office, you should act that way, too. So you
need a suit. If you weigh more than 200 lbs (and are under 6' 2") or look like you're 20 or
younger, don't try this. You'll look dumb, be laughed at and possibly have security called on you.
You can look like an office worker's kid if you're that young. If you can do this, go ahead. Most
of us can't.
Fake ID security cards (the kind that aligator clip to a belt or something) can be made with
a photo, a layout program and a lamination sheet. This just makes you look more official.
Sometimes one of this stick on visitor patches can be helpful. They make you look like your
unnatural observation is warrented by your visiting status.

5.3 I'm sweating in this suit..now what?

Walk into an office building with confidence. Flash your badge or just have your visitor
tag. Pretend you really belong there. That's how you look. An office with cubicles is great. Just
walk around and peer at people's belongings. Find the company's UNIX minicomputer. They
tend to keep them behind a big plate glass window, so you can check out how its connected. This
is good scouting without having to sift through dumpsters or watching through binoculars. DO


You want to see what your school's minutes are or you want to hack a local chemical
company to see their new toxins, but even if you had access it would be problematic to access the
passwords because they are running a VAX. Now what?
First you get a list of employees. For schools, just use the catalog. For companies, use a
live engineering technique. Look for payroll sheets, or posted employee lists. If you look right,
you can just ask a low level employee for a list. Remember, be calm in front of people. You have
to maintain your credibility.
Finger each employee's account. Find out who has or hasn't used their account in the past
few months. Those who haven't are your marks. Write those names down cause your gonna play
them for all they are worth, goddammit.
Now we go to the phone book and get the employees addresses. Then we create a
document in our DTP program that emmulates a short sweepstakes form or another short
document commonly encountered in the field. It must look professional but subtle enough not to
look false. Credibility once again. Remember to include the social security number space as well
as other information. Send these out and wait or masturbate or whatever you do for a few days.
Yes, you're going to have to spend $10 on stamps unless you are on good terms with who you
engineered in person. If they trust you, go back and use the stamping machine..might as well.
Now get your phone and call their sysadm. Use women voices first because the guys that
run these machines have rarely seen daylight, let alone women. They are EASILY manipulated
with a woman's voice. Sound helpless, they love it. If they don't give you your password, you'll
have plenty of info for them for verification. If you pretend to be a woman, they'll give youplenty
of leway. Go as far as saying you've seen them at work and think they are cute. Watch the
passwords fly.

That's it. Once you're in, do what you do..i can't help you from here.

Any questions? Email bernz at bernz@ix.netcom.com
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