Social Engineering: Neurolinguistics

by Natsuya Uesugi

In this episode of our social engineering series we will look into neuroliguistic programming which explores commands, statements and questions and the subconscious mind.

Neurolinguistics as a school of thought came about in the 1970s and much research has been done on the subject. You can google it and find a plethora of information. For now I will look at some of the basic concepts of statements, questions and commands.

The English language uses tone to distinguish sentences between a question and a command unlike in Japanese which adds a particle at the end of the sentance ‘ka’ to denote a question. In Japanese it makes it easy for someone to understand if something is a question if they hear that. The same is true I think in Chinese with a different particle since there are no question marks. In English a question is discovered by an upward tone in your inflection when stating the sentence. If that tone is not there the sentence is registered as a statement by the listener.

A command unlike a question has a downward tone at the end of the sentence. So a simple statement like “the cat is fat” can be a command asking you to take action and put the cat on a diet, a statement of fact or a question making you answer. This subtle intonation can have a lot of meaning in a social engineering interaction.

Neurolinguistic programming can lead to actions being taken by the target a simple phrase with a downward tone can be registered as a command by the listener. It takes practice though. The person giving the commands will need to practice so it comes out smoothly and not awkward because the listener will pick up on that.

In the grydscaen series there are multiple places in the story where Faid the Packrat leader is directing his horde. There are a few situations in grydscaen: tribute where it is noted that Faid is speaking with his tone and he is irritated such as in the short story “Rogue” where Shine is fighting Rom. Faid warns Dark with his tone and gets Dark to back down, agree and bow being reprimanded. We don’t hear Faid speak but the text in that passage denoates the tone Faid uses warning Dark with his intonation, his body language and his eyes.

In other situations in tribute we see Lino in the short story “Glam” get irritated with his boyfriend Berlin and his words come out curt and to the point. He is accusatory with Berlin for playing on his emotions and his irritation comes out in his voice.

Neurolinguistic programming can be a tool like microexpressions that a social engineer can use to guide an information gathering session. Using the tone of your voice you can subtly guide the interaction to where you need it to go giving commands that are picked up subconsciously so that the target does not know they are being guided. It is a subtle practice but it can have a great reward when you obtain the information you are seeking.

It is best to practice these tones before attempting to use them to ensure they come off naturally. The command ends the sentence in a downward tone. A question ends on an upward tone and a statement is flat. The more practice you have in these tones the more successful your interaction may be. Practice tones on simple sentences to hear how they sound and the feelings that the statements evoke.

With a target in mind, a knowledge of microexpressions and emotions and how to read them and some subtle tones, an information gathering session can lead you on your way to your goal as a social engineer.