The Art of Deception - Controlling the Human Element of Security (Anglais) Broché – 17 octobre 2003
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a company may have purchased the best security technologies that money can buy, trained their people so well that they lock up all their secrets before going home at night, and hired building guards from the best security firm in the business. Lire la première page
Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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The vignettes describing various cons are, in the large, very entertaining. They're fictionalized, and sometimes the dialogue feels artificial. This book is supposed to convince us how easily people are victimized by social engineers. When the victim's dialogue plays too obviously into the con man's hands (for the purpose of illustrating the point relevant to the enclosing chapter/section), this goal is to some extent defeated. It's too easy to read unnatural dialogue and use that as an excuse to tell oneself, "I don't have to worry about that sort of attack -- I'm not that dumb!" More effort could have been expended in fictionalizing these scenarios without making them so difficult to relate to. Seeing how a con is performed is kind of like learning how a magic trick works -- it holds a similar fascination. Imagine seeing an amazing magic trick performed on television, wondering how it was possibly accomplished, and then learning that the trick was all in the video editing. That really sucks the fun out of the magic -- analogously, when the "trick" in one of these cons is just that the victim does something obviously stupid at just the right moment, the believability and enjoyment are damaged.
Despite what I've said, the cons are definitely enjoyable to read and do offer some genuine insights. Not all suffer from believability problems. However, the supporting material discussing these scenarios is pretty weak. There's a rigid format ("Analyzing the con," "Preventing the con," etc.) which leads the author to repeat the same points over and over again with very little variation, at times seemingly just to fit the format. The purpose of all this material is to give useful security recommendations and proper motivation for following them. The recommendations are on-target, but repeated ad nauseum.
The descriptions of social engineers also suffer from a tendency to stroke the author's own ego -- the bigger the con, the thicker the language about how smart, handsome, and clever the con man is. I'd like to be convinced by facts, not hyperbole.
I think this would really have worked better as two books, for two different audiences. One for entertainment, to read about all the cons and how they work, to get a little history of social engineering. And one for serious security discussion. The blend of the two leads to a schizoid work that's simply mediocre.
Some readers may find a book on computer security penned by a convicted computer criminal blasphemous. Rather than focusing on the writer's past, it is clear that Mitnick wishes the book to be viewed as an attempt at redemption.
The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security states that even if an organization has the best information systems security policies and procedures; most tightly controlled firewall, encrypted traffic, DMZ's, hardened operating systems patched servers and more; all of these security controls can be obviated via social engineering.
Social engineering is a method of gaining someone's trust by lying to them and then abusing that trust for malicious purposes - primarily gaining access to systems. Every user in an organization, be it a receptionist or a systems administrator, needs to know that when someone requesting information has some knowledge about company procedures or uses the corporate vernacular, that alone should not be authorization to provide controlled information.
The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security spends most of its time discussing many different social engineering scenarios. At the end of each chapter, the book analyzes what went wrong and how the attack could have been prevented.
The book is quite absorbing and makes for fascinating reading. With chapter titles such as The Direct Attack; Just Asking for it; the Reverse Sting; and Using Sympathy, Guilt and Intimidation, readers will find the narratives interesting, and often they relate to daily life at work.
Fourteen of the 16 chapters give examples of social engineering covering many different corporate sectors, including financial, manufacturing, medical, and legal. Mitnick notes that while companies are busy rolling out firewalls and other security paraphernalia, there are often unaware of the threats of social engineering. The menace of social engineering is that it does not take any deep technical skills - no protocol decoders, no kernel recompiling, no port scans - just some smooth talk and a little confidence.
Most of the stories in the book detail elementary social engineering escapades, but chapter 14 details one particularly nasty story where a social engineer showed up on-site at a robotics company. With some glib talk, combined with some drinks at a fancy restaurant, he ultimately was able to get all of the design specifications for a leading-edge product.
In order for an organization to develop a successful training program against the threats of social engineering, they must understand why people are vulnerable to attack in the first place. Chapter 15 explains of how attackers take advantage of human nature. Only by identifying and understanding these tendencies (namely, Authority, Liking, Reciprocation, Consistency, Social Validation, and Scarcity), can companies ensure employees understand why social engineers can manipulate us all.
After more than 200 pages of horror stories, Part 4 (Chapters 15 and 16) details the need for information security awareness and training. But even with 100 pages of security policies and procedures (much of it based on ideas from Charles Cresson Wood's seminal book Information Security Policies Made Easy) the truth is that nothing in Mitnick's security advice is revolutionary - it's information security 101. Namely, educate end-users to the risks and threats of non-technical attacks.
While there are many books on nearly every aspect of information security, The Art of Deception is one of the first (Bruce Schneier's Secrets and Lies being another) to deal with the human aspect of security; a topic that has long been neglected. For too long, corporate America has been fixated with cryptographic key lengths, and not focused enough on the human element of security.
From a management perspective, The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security should be on the list of required reading. Mitnick has done an effective job of showing exactly what the greatest threat of attack is - people and their human nature.
time, checking my mailbox every day after my pre-order was
completed. The book was almost worth the wait!
Its a fun book with lots of entertaining and education stories on what
is possible by means of social engineering attacks. The characters
clearly push the limits of this "human technology".
One of the articles I have read on the book called it "Kevin Mitnick's
Latest Deception" due to his downplaying of technology security
controls and emphasizing people skills and weaknesses. However, the
human weaknesses do nullify the strengths of technology defenses and
humans are much harder to "harden" than UNIX machines.
The attack side is stronger in the book than the defense side,
naturally following from the author's background. However, there are
some great defense resource on policy design, awareness and needed
vigilance. However, there is this "minor" issues with defense against
social engineering: one of the definitions called it a "hacker's
clever manipulation of the natural human tendency to trust". The word
"natural" is key; if we are to believe the definition, all defenses
against social engineering will be going against _nature_ and, as a
result, will be ineffective for most environments. Author also
advocates social engineering penetration testing, which appears to be
the best way to prepare for such attacks. Security awareness, while
needed, will get you so far.
The book's stories show examples of hackers defeating firewalls,
passwords, token and two-factor authentication systems, multi-layer
defense, financial institutions security, armed guards and many other
commonly believed to be effective security controls. While some of the
stories first seem to defy common sense, upon more detailed
investigation there are clearly believable. Dialogs, stories,
situations are described with terrifying reality behind them: "So what is the money transfer code for today? - Its this-and-that..." Social
engineers bravely attack and conquer on the pages of this great book!
The book will give lots of ideas to those involved in penetration
testing. Using the book, it is possible to extract a structure of a
successful attack, gather some target selection criteria, learn how to
combine social and technical attacks and then use it for the
The biggest shortcoming of the book is that it has no "attack HOWTO"
part. It has zero content on developing, improving and polishing the
social engineering skills. While it might seem that natural ability is
all it takes, the author _knows_ that there are methods to develop
social engineering skills, but chose not to disclose them and I regret
his decision to withhold such information.
Anton Chuvakin, Ph.D., GCIA is a Senior Security Analyst with a major
information security company. In his spare time he maintains his
security portal info-secure.org
The book sets out security policies, and there's also a whole chapter on security training. One of Mitnick's recommendations is for companies to supply each employee with a copy of the book. Normally I'd dismiss this as blatant self-promotion. But believe me, in this case, the more people share the book's stories with each other at the water cooler, the closer the company will come to being a secure environment.
Mitnick makes it clear that everyone in the company has to be aware of security issues, and of the many types of attacks he describes so well, and know how to react to any demand for information, even from someone who appears to be an insider. By the time you finished the book, you'll be a believer, and you'll think two or three times before giving out information. And company security officers may want to stop simply sending e-mails about security, and get all employees (including the receptionists!) into classroom training.
The only problem I had with this book was Mitnick's use of the term "social engineering" to describe the manipulation of employees and security systems. Social engineering is what the conservatives accuse the liberals on the U.S. Supreme Court of doing.
But that's a minor item in an otherwise overwhelming and totally convincing book.