The art and practice of deception through social engineer may perhaps be very intriguing and appealing to everyone. Yet, anybody who practices the ways of deception through unethical activities of winning people’s trust, obsequious bootlicking or sales talk, and persuasive manner of communicating must always be prepared to face the consequences of his or her actions. Obviously, misleading, unfair, and fraudulent people do not always get away with the crime and stealth they perform to harm and trick people and cause misery and loss to others. Thus, if one wants to live in peace and happiness, he or she must always remember this one golden rule of the importance of respect in life. It is living a life, as simple as it may seem, to practice the principle of “Not doing unto others what you do not want others to do unto you.”
The Art of Deception by Kevin Mitnick
The Art of Deception is a book created by Kevin Mitnick in 2002. The book describes what social engineering is all about. According to the author, knowledge in social engineering gave Mitnick (2002) the power to have access in any information he wants to know. In this paper, deception was the emphasis by the author to explain in detail that it occurs and it is certainly eminent even without people knowing especially in hacking big companies causing them loss or large sums of money. Thus, the author shares one’s knowledge and past experience using the acquired and enhanced hands-on, practical, technical, and non-technical skills in social engineering for the intention of increasing the awareness of people, warning them of the hazards of carelessness and innocence that anywhere and everywhere, security is thus threatened, and teaching them how to avoid deception of any kind (Mitnick, 2002).
Mitnick on Learning the Basics of Social Engineering
As far as everyone should know, the prominent Kevin Mitnick (2002) is a distinguished prodigy when it comes to the art of deception. His main expertise is social engineering through the medium called “pretexting” (Mitnick, 2002, p.7). The latter is carried out by studying all the information needed in a residence, monetary establishments, and companies engaging in business to be able to execute the plan of invading the “target” at its weakest point to get its money, possessions, or access to its existing private and forbidden information (Mitnick, 2002, p.7). During his early childhood, Kevin Mitnick got exposed to the basics of the social engineering activities and perhaps, “pretexting” by hanging out with his friends who were already accustomed to the practice. Since high school, Mitnick was able to practice his basic social engineering skills through emulating his friends by making local and overseas calls and charging the bill to some unaware companies. He also attributed his innate tendencies of tricking people upon learning magic tricks during his childhood (Mitnick, 2002).
Due to his extraordinary skills, Kevin Mitnick graduated as “Cum Laude” during his high school. However, soon after Mitnick graduated, he got more exposured to computers to practice his hands-on and non-technical skills. He was not able to get away from his unethical practice of fraud and deception after a couple of years; he soon got caught and was imprisoned. Mitnick, after spending time in prison, promised to reform as soon as he got out, and indeed, he transformed himself to a productive and concerned citizen of the United States. He was abruptly hired as a private investigator of a specific company due to his extreme competence and he truly enjoyed his job (Mitnick, 2002, p. 1).
Mitnick used to think that being regarded as a “hacker” simply means an individual who exhibits special talent in troubleshooting and navigating on “hardware and software” components of a computer for utilizing scripts and using programming to facilitate his or her jobs and gain easy access on the information he or she desires; yet, as technology evolves, so as the behavior and attitude of men with regard to their reactions and responses on issues such as “hacking” (Mitnick, 2002, p. 13). For the outside observers, (those who are not hackers), they think that hackers are generally those individuals who are compulsive in gaining power to have control over situations. For these outside observers’ perspective, hackers do no good in the society for they violate the natural and right way of obtaining information without sacrificing the federal law guiding and operating against disobedient opposition of this (Mitnick, 2002, p. 13).
Currently, Mitnick could say that he is now a moral and dignified person. From his statements extracted from his own book The Art of Deception, Mitnick is very proud to claim that he transformed and realized several things after suffering the consequences of his actions by being imprisoned at a very early age. According to him, the purpose of writing this book is to share what he has undergone as a victimizer for the purpose of awakening the existing burglars of the countries all over the world of the cost of their actions, and for the victims to harness their security systems and be more careful to watch over their personal accounts and possessions (Mitnick, 2002, p. 245).
Social Engineering: The Practice of Deception
Social engineering is the term for using a particular individual’s interpersonal and communication skills, including one’s competencies, in order to gather desired information and obtain access in a certain private property like illegally hacking a system or breaking in a house which causes harm and stealth to other people. The person making use of this social engineering skill is what is popularly known as a “hacker” (Mitnick, 2002, p. 4). This hacker, whom we may also call an illegal intruder or a trespasser, would do whatever it takes just to get the information sought after, often for the purpose of meeting one’s goal in minimizing time, effort, energy, and cost to obtain forbidden or secret data and codes desired. Thus, in order to avoid instances of harm and stealth caused by this unaccountable deceivers, Mitnick came up with this book to serve as a guideline for overcoming man’s frailty: of entrusting too much in everybody and in the habit of extreme laxity and complacence (Mitnick, 2002, p. 4).
Good Points of the Book
Although it may seem difficult, Mitnick was able to speak and clarify his points objectively upon disclosing one’s personal experience regarding the art and skill of deception. Kevin Mitnick created such an informative and substantial piece in the art of deception for it elucidates that no one is entirely free and safe from rampant threats of security of people everywhere (Mitnick, 2002). In so doing, everyone has to be extra careful to meticulously scrutinize, analyze, and detect every open area where attackers (or deceivers, frauds, or hackers, as how one may call it) could take advantage of the overlooked flaw or unforeseen possibility of attack and intrusion of these fraudulent experts and abusive social engineers (Mitnick, 2002).
Moreover, what is really good and remarkable about this book was that the author made use of the first and second active voice in order to give the readers the impression that the author himself was sure about the message imparted. Therefore, Mitnick gained prestige due to implicitly setting as an example to many that knowledge has its limitations and thus, should not be abused and misused for one’s selfish greed. In addition, Mitnick was really impressive for admitting and claiming that erroneous deed and past wrong doings which made him change his ways as a more dignified and moral person. Mitnick realized that instead of using his skills for his own benefit, Mitnick learned the attitude of displacing his superior intelligence to contribute in yielding production and efficiency in the United States and help individuals and business of companies to protects themselves from all sorts of deception and further fiasco (Mitnick, 2002).
The Purpose of this Book
The Art of Deception was very persuasive and was merely created for the purpose of awakening the people in companies, business, or in any household settings to protect them from the control and harmful intrusion of exploitive deceivers. Mitnick aimed to give the readers an idea of how actual deception is carried out smoothly by the experts without getting caught. In addition, Mitnick stressed to the readers the importance of not being so “trusting” when it comes to entrusting their welfare and safety to other people. For him, it is important to develop strategic methods to at least decrease the tendencies of deception in any important things that people possess and values (Mitnick, 2002, p. 195).
Suggestions for Improvement
Despite the book’s focus and compelling ideas, it also has several flaws. These flaws could also be changed in the book like the mention of “parents” to be compared to such “misleading deceivers” (Mitnick, 2002, p.1). In The Art of Deception, Kevin Mitnick used the word “parents” as an example to exemplify the characteristic of fraudulent people who would deceive people just to get whatever they want for their own benefit. For the parents part on the other hand, it is unfair, unethical, and offensive for them to be regarded and compared to the existing deceivers. Mitnick associated the parents with the deceivers for the reason that both have the capacity for deceiving naïve and gullible people. For the parents specifically, the author suggested that they can deceive their children in order to control them and make them follow their orders.
However, other than that instance of comparing the parents to deceivers, Mitnick’s revelation was astounding, very well explained, and clearly written. Mitnick cited other adequate examples to exemplify one’s message and viewpoint. Moreover, it also has to be put into account that the author wrote this book in a detailed manner in order to narrate how deception was actually carried out step by step. In a good way, it can help the readers or the “potential victims” to avoid such similar situations when it happens in reality (Mitnick, 2002, p.1). They could remember that same pattern of behavior and inquiry of a suspicious stranger insists on getting certain information by conversing with another. However, the negative aspect or possible flaw of this manner of such detailed narration of ways in deceiving people may reinforce its readers to try on the procedures for the sake of curiosity. So, as an objective criticism of the book, it is advised to remove some parts which may trigger such curiosity among individuals (Mitnick, 2002, p.1).
In conclusion, the art of deception through social engineering may be very intriguing and appealing to everyone for it may cause temporary convenience for the doer of the action. However, anybody who practices such ways of deception through unethical activities of winning people’s trust by obsequious bootlicking or sales talk and persuasive manner of communicating must always be prepared to face the consequences of one’s actions. Obviously, misleading, unfair, and fraudulent people do not always get away with the crime and stealth they perform to harm and trick people and therefore cause misery and loss to others. If one wants to live in peace and happiness, he or she must always remember this one golden rule of the importance of respect in life: It is through living life, as simple as it may seem, to practice the principle of “Not doing unto others what you do not want others to do unto you.”
Mitnick, K. D., & Simon, W. L. ( 2002). The Art of Deception. Canada: John Wiley & Sons