A Framework for Conceptualizing Social Engineering Attacks

  • Jose J. Gonzalez
  • Jose M. Sarriegi
  • Alazne Gurrutxaga
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 4347)


At the highest abstraction level, an attempt by a social engineer to exploit a victim organization either attempts to achieve some specific target (denial of service, steal an asset, tap some particular information) or it wishes to maximize an outcome, such as to disable the organization by a terrorist attack or establish a permanent parasitic relationship (long-term espionage). Seen as dynamic processes, the first kind of exploit is a controlling (“balancing”) feedback loop, while the second kind is a reinforcing feedback loop. Each type of exploit meets a first line of defense in control processes or in escalating (“reinforcing”) processes of resistance. The possible combinations of the two modes of attack and the two modes of defense yield four archetypes of exploit and natural defense. Predictably, the social engineer would seek to outsmart the first line of defense; it is shown that each archetype implies a particular strategy to do so. Anticipation of these modes of attack must be the starting point for an effective multi-layered defense against social engineering attacks.


Social engineering critical infrastructure pattern recognition system archetype system dynamics information security 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jose J. Gonzalez
    • 1
  • Jose M. Sarriegi
    • 2
  • Alazne Gurrutxaga
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty of engineering and science, Research Cell “Security and Quality and Organizations”Agder University CollegeGrimstadNorway
  2. 2.NISlabGjøvik University CollegeGjøvikNorway
  3. 3.Tecnun (University of Navarra)San SebastianSpain

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