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Vulnerabilities / Threats

7/27/2016
01:00 PM
Terry Sweeney
Terry Sweeney
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7 Ways To Charm Users Out of Their Passwords

While the incentives have changed over time, it still takes remarkably little to get users to give up their passwords.
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What won't users give up in exchange for their passwords?

Not much, as it turns out.

It is indeed curious what induces users to divulge passwords to perfect strangers. These social experiments offer insight into our psyches, and some would say, the human heart. And they cut to the substance of what motivates us: gratification, money, the prospect of coming out ahead. But that's getting ahead of ourselves… more on all those in a moment.

Passwords are the bane of IT's existence. So much time spent resetting them for hapless users, endless reminders to take down and destroy those password-riddled Post-Its. And stop re-using the same password across multiple accounts! (Talking to you, Mark Zuckerberg). Then there are the regular advisories insisting users change or update their passwords. The rhythms are as predictable as the tides.

Smart organizations insist on some sort of formal training at least once a year to remind users about the importance of password security. Highly evolved enterprises insist on quarterly security refreshers for users. The messaging that does get through isn't very "sticky," as the hipsters in marketing like to say. But sadly, any kind of security training – for passwords or anything else – regularly falls through the cracks at most organizations. Budgets, time, shifting priorities – the excuses are familiar and unending.

There's also the school of thought that passwords are passé. Consumers, credit card companies and Congress are all, apparently, fed up. Given that passwords are being regularly hacked and re-sold, it's clear that text-based logons and passwords are going the way of fax machines. Apple has helped popularize fingerprint authentication, Microsoft's developing facial recognition features, and German scientists think the sound of your skull can be used to ensure your identity. Regardless, multi-factor authentication (MFA) that includes some combination of biometrics, a security token and a PIN will eventually become mainstream, just as soon as they can agree on some standards.

Until that happy day, beware the researcher or security vendor offering you magic beans for your "password123." It just might be a trick.

 

Terry Sweeney is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered technology, networking, and security for more than 20 years. He was part of the team that started Dark Reading and has been a contributor to The Washington Post, Crain's New York Business, Red Herring, ... View Full Bio
 

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Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
7/28/2016 | 8:02:00 AM
Wow...
I thought this piece would be about legitimate social engineering techniques, not outright bribery of people! I'm shocked so many would give up information for a pen.

A cookie I can understand but still...

I might be tempted by the cash, but only because I would immediately change my password after they gave it to me. 
T Sweeney
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T Sweeney,
User Rank: Moderator
7/28/2016 | 10:21:40 AM
Re: Wow...
Ha! Thanks, Whoopty... that's a better title, actually: 7 Ways to Bribe Users! I'll admit I was surprised at how many ways there were to get users to give up the goods. Some little treat is actually a great conversational opener for a social engineer, provided they're willing to try it in person and forego the anonymity of the phone.

The other surprise: How many users will give up their passwords just by being asked... no incentive required. What's up with that?
JulietteRizkallah
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JulietteRizkallah,
User Rank: Ninja
7/28/2016 | 11:43:51 AM
Re: Wow...
Well, i hope you use unique password because many times hackers will test the password they obtain - by theft, bribe or money - against many other systems until they get into the one they want access to.  You may think you can just chnage your password as soon as revealed and all is safe but hackers are not that stupid, they usually do not ask for the password of the system they wnat access to, they want to study your passwords, test them against other corporate systems until they get their way in.  And be worried, there is always one app you forget that will let them in!
JulietteRizkallah
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JulietteRizkallah,
User Rank: Ninja
7/28/2016 | 11:48:15 AM
Your data is my data
Unfortunately until users consider corporate data - that includes corporate financials but also customers/consumers data like yours and my data- as their own, this behavior will continue.  Individuals who suffered an identity theft through the IRS breach or a healthcare fraud done under their name are less likely to sell passwords or give them away in exchange for cheap bribe.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
7/28/2016 | 12:51:33 PM
Re: Wow...
What I couldn't tell from article was who these people thought they were giving their password to? Was the social engineering hook (true in these cases) that this was only a test/survey? 

Surely it wasn't a cold call who told person "My name is Demitri. Would you please provide me your password and I will send you a cookie."

But even replying to what you thought was test/survey shows a real level of either stupidity or lack of caring about corp data. How would they know if real study or not?

Whoopty has good point. Many probably changed passwords after getting gift. Most, like at our our place, are probably forced to change every 90 days, enforced by system tracking last 31 changes to make sure you don't use password again. Chances are they had password like "Cutekitty8". Three guesses what their next password was? 
T Sweeney
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T Sweeney,
User Rank: Moderator
7/28/2016 | 1:01:05 PM
Re: Wow...
Most, if not all, of the examples cited in the slideshow were in-person interactions. Most social engineers -- the malicious ones -- don't have the nerve to pull this off and don't want to risk being ID'd later.

But, yes... there is an incredible amount of unthinking behavior out there on the part of end-users. This just skims the surface.
phoenix522
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phoenix522,
User Rank: Strategist
7/28/2016 | 4:31:03 PM
Re: Wow...
I overheard a person in a non-IT training class a while back as she was stating that the Target breach was blown way out of proportion and there's no need for change when it comes to credit card fraud. Her logic was, "How many people do YOU know who were impacted by that?"

Some people just don't get the need for security, they simply want to bury their head in the sand and let others worry about it. If you add those people who work for a company but they aren't happy there, they are even less worried about what happens to the company data.
rstoney
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rstoney,
User Rank: Strategist
7/29/2016 | 9:03:34 AM
Re: Your data is my data
Very true;

 

  But come on - the fresh-baked cookie offering to a group of typically male IT shops is just downright rude and unfair.   Especially around morning coffee time.

 

   My preference is the soft sugar cookies with the hershey kiss in the middle.  Gawd I am hungry now for cookies.  *&&$%## !!!!
Chessie1934
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Chessie1934,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/29/2016 | 1:59:16 PM
Re: Your data is my data
Nobody has really been put on the hook for actions that result in a breach so no one cares about truly protecting data.  Once there is a real consquence to the insider who contributes to a data breach--CFO who won't pay for updated software, dumb-ass end user who clicks a supsicious link--in some significant manner, people will start caring about the data that is under their protection.  Until then, the attitude will be they'll just provide credit monitoring to those affected by a breach.  They'd rather pay (more) later than pay (a litlle) up-front to prevent a breach.
JulietteRizkallah
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JulietteRizkallah,
User Rank: Ninja
7/29/2016 | 2:31:45 PM
Re: Your data is my data
Well you can eitehr call me an optimistic, thinking people will come to their senses and consider that the data they compromised could be theris, or a pessimistic, thinking everyone of us at the pace we are goign with databreach will suffer an identity theft and then will chnage our behavior toward password and data.
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