Here at Social-Engineer we delve into everything to find the social engineering angle…. Yes, I mean everything.  For your reading pleasure we have taken SE to a new height this month.

Over the past few years there have been some apartment complexes in the U.S. and Europe that have used DNA testing and social engineering to identify dog poop left unattended by the pet’s owners. Tenants are required to register their pet’s DNA with the apartment management in order to identify offenders. Fines can then be levied against guilty tenants once the DNA match has been confirmed.

Recently, in Brunete, Spain, a team of volunteers spotted the guilty parties in the act. They then use “social engineering” skills and struck up a friendly conversation with the owners to learn the name of the pet. With that info, the owners could be identified from the city registry and the waste was mailed back to the owners. Officials said the offenses have since fallen by 70 percent.

This idea has been discussed for years by local governments and property owners as a way to deter these kinds of misdeeds. We would like to use this latest example in making a larger point about the nature of data. It isn’t typical for people to think of a pile of dog poop as a source of social engineering information. (A fact that would have served the offenders in Brunete to consider.)

Perspective and creativity are critical to human adaptation. We know from experience, and biology class, that the most adaptive organisms are the organisms that survive and thrive over time. The ability to shift perspective, explore our perceptions and yield creative solutions to problems are some of humanity’s greatest strengths and capabilities. To be a better thinker and therefore more adaptive are useful sets of skills.

Critical Thinking for Social Engineering Skills

Functional Fixedness is a cognitive psychology concept in which a person finds it difficult to think of creative uses for an object aside from its traditional use. A typical functional fixedness exercise requires participants to solve the following problem:

Two strings that are long enough to be tied together hang from hooks on either side of a ceiling. The strings are hung far enough apart that you cannot reach one without holding the other. With a box of nails, matches and a hammer at your disposal how can you manage to hold both strings at the same time so that you may tie them together?

Exercises such as this are useful for strengthening your creativity and opening your mind up to different perspectives in problem solving. Something we call – Critical Thinking.  As a social engineer is it important to continually develop the ability to be creative and to expand your capacity to adapt to any situation. This is applicable for the highly technical as well as agents who largely operate in the physical realm. Critical thinking leads to better execution.

And as the residents of Brunete who failed to clean up after their pets learned, it is important to protect your information. All of it.