For the last couple months we have had a survey on the website that asked our visitors to tell us if they think they believe someone can be influenced without the use of deception.  This question is not as simple as it seems.

Just a couple months ago we asked a similar question, “Does Social Engineering Always Involve Deception?“, and the answer was a resounding YES.  Over 60% of the people polled, felt that social engineering and deception go hand in hand.  It didn’t end there… Our resident jokester, Dave Kennedy a.k.a Rel1k, decided to argue with us about how he feels that deception is not needed in social engineering.

While he has continually lost that battle, he decided to join forces with Johnny Long and DualCore in making an argument at Shmoo Con that changes the question quite a bit.  They presented the question, “Is it possible to influence someone to take an action not with in their best interest with out the use of deception?”

This question does change the game a bit.  Instead of classifying all social engineering into one lump; this asks if it is at all possible to make someone do something not really good for them and not have to use deception to do it.

Lets take a look at some of the ideas people came up with in regards to examples that prove this is possible:

  • This might be different if you influence someone to do something that you know is not in their best interest, but even there I suspect that you could influence them to do it even with telling them outright that it is not in their best interest, but would, for instance, be for the greater good.
  • I’ll usually befriend a teacher as I enroll in classes I’m passionate about, and sometimes  I do this because I’m allowed to slide past with late assignments, getting full credit when I should only have partial or none. I don’t have to lie nor edit anything, I just turn it in honestly, explain I realize it’s late and give a sincere apology. Rather than failing or getting reduced credit for my assignment, it’s accepted. The teacher knows full well if their department finds out they may be accused of favoritism, or criticized heavily.
  • Guilt and peer pressure are common ways you can do this without using deception. Of course, this requires some sort of relationship be built prior to this vector working.
  • If its for someone else best interest you might convince them that the others are more important
  • The answer actually depends on how you define their best interest. Is he man risking his life to save a stranger acting in his own best interest? The patriot willingly dying for his country?
  • Deception is cognitive on the se’s end, so if I truly don’t know any better it’s not deception
  • If people think that legal or fiscally they will be held responsible for something, they will generally not act in their best interest, but out of fear.
  • In our society the masses lack the ability to think critically. They stare at their TV screens for hours on end. They have learned to depend on something outside of their own thought process to form their opinions, values and lifestyles. America is full of big kids playing monkey see monkey do, just look on youtube for videos of people imitating the show JackAss. Is more proof necessary? Are we in a state of manufactured backwards evolution? I think so!
  • if you were feeding their drug habit or blackmailing them they could fully know what it is they are doing but still do it
  • show your boobs

And the most popular answer of all:

  • If you can convince them that it’s for the greater good.

Is this how many people really think?  Lets first take a look.  This survey covered mostly America but lets take a look at the stats on where our voters came from:

Countries that Vote

The “Other” category included countries like, Belize, Austria, Phillipines, Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil, Spain and Greece, as well as about 15 others.  How did these thousands of votes tally up?

Results of May

Yes so it seems that now 80% of the voters feel that it is very possible, even probable to influence someone to take an action not in their best interest without the use of deception.  To tell you the truth, all joking aside, it makes sense that this answer would be an 80/20 split.  There are many ways we can think of that someone can be influenced without the use of deception.

This was a great survey that we let go on for a few months just to make sure we had conclusive evidence to go one way or another.  We look forward to many surveys.  If you have an idea you would like see as a survey send an email to [email protected].

Thanks and till next time.