Social Engineering in real world

Social engineering as defined on Wikipedia – Social engineering is an act of manipulating people into performing actions or divulging information. While similar to a confidence trick or a simple fraud, the term typically applies to trickery or deception for the purpose of information gathering, fraud, or computer system access; in most cases the attacker never comes face to face with the victim…

What a concept! Recently I was reading a book (fiction of course) and this social engineering which largely is a hacker domain or restricted to the anonymity of the web to the real life… The book was awesome but this social engineering got me thinking…

While there are enough examples in popular culture (read movies) of use of social engineering, they have all been crime related… But when I look at the environment around… or what happens in marketing and communication or consumer behaviour… we are constanly social engineering… the context is not criminal… nor is the intent.. but the fact is all the time we are trying to be someone we are not… trying to be someone who will be acceptable to the person we are trying to connect… by modifying our behaviour, by what we speak… what brands we use… what network we access (social network)… all social engineering.

And we use brands and products to socially engineer ourselves…

Brands do it by addressing the deep seated desires in us… Whether is Axe or a TAG. while Axe appeals to a masculine desire to be popular with females (engineering into the group through the olfactory organ!) TAG on a wrist is a display of a certain social class (money worth spend if it lets the person get into or be part of a select group)

Going to a gym for instance. sure there are some serious gymmers (health and fitness being a primary concern), there are many others who infiltrate the gym culture to network. I have seen deals being fixed, meetings being fixed in the locker rooms!

The point here is that through this kind of social engineering, one is not seeking information with a criminal intent, but it is an intent for information… for getting noticed as the ‘right person” and taking the network forward.

And of course the most obvious representation is on web social networks… dipping into your contact’s contact or buddy list to see how helpful they can be. Creating a profile with a purpose in mind (or even having multiple profiles). Being active members of groups and communities and using twitter and facebook to project our personalities (not the real ones). I really want to know how many people really want to put on page as to what they are doing.. or not doing (or how many really put on the face book what they are really doing!!) Same goes for twitter too. I know for a fact that everytime I have put something on facebook as a status message, I wanted reaction from people so it was well thought out ( i could be a misfit)

The line between real world and web world is blurring… and the behavioural aspects from real world are getting into the web world and vice versa… But more and more we are getting distanced from the real world and social engineering is gaining importance… Its easier to do many things hiding behind the keyboard… after all the person you are communicating with is miles away… hiding behind another keyboard. Pretension is a big buzz word and it fuels social engineering constantly

There are lessons for marketers and advertisers too if they can connect with this concept (some already do but very superficially) but there is some really serious stuff that can be done with this… Imagine using a complete brand surround for any personality you want to be… scary.. but hell exciting from a marketing and communication perspective…

I have kept this post at a very basic level… insights can be gained by observing and embedding oneself in the relevant environment…

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