Social Engineering: Manipulation

by Natsuya Uesugi

Manipulation is a loaded term that often has a negative connotation even in social engineering circles. We will talk a little about some of the methods of manipulating a target and use the new book that will shortly come out grydscaen: tribute to provide some examples.

The first example I want to use is the manipulation tactic of controlling the environment of the target. Now you can’t put your target in a dark closet and isolate him from the world and control everything around him but you can limit things in the environment to have a profound effect. For example in grydscaen: tribute in the short story Rogue, Rom is withdrawing from the addiction that someone got him into by Faid trying to get him clean and sequestering him in the Prophet Centre, Faid is controlling Rom’s environment and who he has access to. Faid has virtually isolated Rom who is not in his right mind because he is withdrawing. By bringing Aseth in to care for Rom Faid has very carefully controlled access to information, the tone Rom hears all posing as if he is trying to help. In actuality Faid is trying to get access to the data that Rom has feigning caring about him.

Another manipulation tactic is getting the target to reevaluate their environment and their belief system. Also in Rogue we see Faid do this to Rom as well. When Rom’s attackers got to him they told him that if he took the psi inducer drugs that they would watch over his sister Elena and keep her safe. This convinced Rom to start taking the drugs since he though it would help his sister. Rom is the target and by getting him into addiction they can set it up that he is no longer a threat. When Faid questions Rom after pulling him off the street he confronts Rom and asks him if they said he had to take the drugs before or after they raped him. This caught Rom off guard and he started getting angry becuase he knew in the back of his mind that he had been manipulated into the addiction that overtook him for over a month. That simple manipulation of keeping his sister safe got Rom to become addicted and fell into the trap of these people who were trying to control him.

Another way to manipulate a target is to intimidate them which can be done in words or by other means. In tribute also this is done a little differently. We will use Faid as the target this time. When Faid the 18 year old host first meets George the rich corporate board member of the SenseNet we see George take Faid to an expensive host bar setting up a situation that Faid could not have been able to accomplish himself. When Faid steps out of line George beats him and Faid remembers that beating. George’s dress, his ability to buy Faid outright with his money and the way he weilds his power trains Faid to be on his best behavior when he is with George. We see this a little later in the book when George pretty much has Faid trained how to act even ingratiating himself for George and begging. This relationship the two of them are in has rules with George commanding his position. Where Faid was in charge with Rom in Rogue the tables are turned in the short story Anj and the Runners because now Faid is being submissive to George, in that relationship Faid is not in control. George uses intimidation and the threat of retaliation on Faid to get him to act a certain way.

Manipulation is a negative term but social engineers use it all the time to get their target to act in a certain way or give up information. There are many other examples of manipulation social engineering in grydscaen: tribute, these were just a few I wanted to highlight today.