What role do physical disabilities play in the area of Social Engineering? Would a physically disabled person have an advantage or a disadvantage during a Social Engineering engagement? Are physically disabled persons perceived more trustworthy, less trustworthy, or neutral versus their non-disabled counterparts? Should a physically disabled Social Engineer acknowledge his disability or ignore it? These controversial questions will be the topic of this months newsletter.

In her study, Social Sterotyping of the Physically Handicapped, Dr. Nancy Weinberg states that it appears that physically disabled people are seen as
personally good to the general public. If that perception is true then a social engineer can utilize a physical disability to automatically gain trust and build rapport.

A physically disabled SE can capitalize on these things and gain a great advantage. Someone who is perceived as a good person and socially unskilled will be unassuming. Often the target would never assume an attack would come from someone like this.

Not only is the physically disabled Social Engineer more unassuming, people naturally go out of their way to help, and sometimes over-help, persons with visible physical disabilities. A study entitled, Perceived distinctiveness of the handicapped. states that automobile drivers, when given the chance to assist a physically disabled driver versus a non-disabled driver, chose to help the disabled person more frequently.

Studies involving retail scenarios also reveal that physically disabled individuals receive more help and assistance and often receive what is described as “over-help.”

The Dark Side

Understanding and exploiting people’s natural desire to help and assist others who have a physical disability gives the disabled Social Engineer a huge advantage. People already want to help and even more so those who are physically disabled.

How should the disabled Social Engineer go about acknowledging the elephant in the room? Should you ignore your disability and pretend it doesn’t exist, or should you mention it and be open about it?

Studies in job applicants have found that applicants who acknowledge their disability upfront are perceived more favorably than those who don’t mention it or mention it at the close of an interview.

It would then be logical to assume that during a Social Engineering engagement, making mention of your disability during the initial confrontation is the best way to go. Although the smart social engineer will do so in very subtle ways and some may perceive the mention as pleas for attention.

To Fake or Not To Fake

Don’t have a physical disability and don’t want to fake one? No problem, studies have shown that partners of physically disabled individuals are perceived as significantly more trustworthy and nurturing than those partners of non-disabled individuals.

Use this knowledge to your advantage. Bring up your wheelchair bound wife, or even better, let a picture slip out of your wallet. While working this angle, it leans greatly in your favor to refer to your disabled partner as heroic or disabled and never as pathetic.

If faking a disability seems too offensive to you, then you can go always go the broken arm or broken leg route with a fake cast and these studies will still apply that you can create feelings of sympathy as you struggle.

Like anything in life, there are pros and cons, positives and negatives, yin and yang. It appears that a truly physically disabled Social Engineer, one that is faking it, or even one who may not possess the disability but is a partner of a physically disabled individual has a distinct advantage during an engagement. The psychological advantage you gain simply from being is an amazing head start and offers an edge over a non-disabled individual. Using physical disabilities to your advantage, you can appear more trustworthy, appear as a good person, and people instinctively want to help you. What
more could a Social Engineer ask for?

Written by Eric “Urbal”