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Types of social engineers

Related: What is social engineering?

There are many different forms of social engineering, which can be both malicious and benevolent, motivating and destructive. A brief description of the various forms of social engineers follows.

1. Hackers

The security of software produced by software vendors continues to improve, and attacking software has become increasingly difficult as a result. As attacks on software and networks (e.g., remote intrusions) have become increasingly difficult, hackers are now resorting to social engineering attacks. Through the use of hardware technology and some personal skills, hackers are now using social engineering in both large and small attacks around the world.

2. Penetration testers

Because real-world penetration testers (also known as infiltrators) are inherently aggressive, such individuals are second only to hackers. Real penetration testers learn and use the techniques used by malicious hackers to help secure their clients. They have the skills of a malicious hacker, but do not profit from the information obtained in the attack and do not harm the target.

3. Spies

Spies treat social engineering as a way of life, often utilizing every aspect of the social engineering framework, and can be considered experts in the subject. Spies around the world learn ways to "fool" people, to be able to convince them that they are someone or not someone. In addition to learning social engineering techniques, spies also learn more or less about the business or government they are infiltrating in order to gain their trust.

4. Identity thieves

Identity thieves use personal information such as another person's name, bank account number, address, birthday and Social Security number without the person's knowledge. This crime can take various forms, including dressing up in certain work clothes to impersonate someone in that industry or setting up elaborate scams. Identity thieves also use a variety of social engineering techniques, and over time, they become bolder and more indifferent to the loss of others.

5. Disgruntled employees

After an employee becomes dissatisfied with the company, their relationship with their employer often enters a state of hostility. This is often a one-sided situation, as employees will deliberately hide the level of dissatisfaction to reduce career risk. But when dissatisfaction increases, they may commit various crimes such as theft and vandalism.

6. The clever scammers

Scammers prey on the greed of others to induce the idea of "getting rich". They can read people's minds and determine if they are the right "target" by looking at small details. They are also very skilled at creating a buzz and making the target think it is a godsend.

7. High-end headhunters

Headhunters must also understand social engineering techniques, including the psychological principles of grooming and social engineering. They are masters at reading people's psychology and motivations. Very often, headhunters need to consider and cater not only to the needs of the candidate, but also to take a thorough look at the employer's thoughts.

8. Salespeople

Similar to headhunters, salespeople must master many interpersonal skills. Many experienced salespeople say that a good salesperson doesn't need to manipulate others, but should use his or her skills to find out what people need and see if he or she can meet those needs. The art of selling includes information gathering, coaxing, influencing, psychological grip, and many interpersonal skills.

9. Governments

Although government is rarely seen as a social engineer, it uses social engineering to control the distribution of information and to manage people. Many government departments use social acceptance, authority, and scarce resources to ensure that goals are controlled. This type of social engineering is not always negative because some governments deliver messages that are beneficial to the people, and by using some elements of social engineering, these messages become more appealing and more widely accepted.

10. Doctors, psychologists and lawyers

People in these professions may not seem to be the same as other social engineers, but they also use the same methods used by the social engineers mentioned above. They must use elicitation, proper conversation and questioning tactics, and many (if not all) of the psychological principles of social engineering to manipulate the "target" (client) into taking the actions they desire.