Jonah, a not-so-typical 16-year-old, was making thousands of dollars by ripping off some of the world’s biggest tech companies. There were no passwords compromised, there were no hacks into databases, but simply face-to-face interactions, phone calls or by email – resulting in Jonah receiving televisions, laptops, smartphones, fine wines and more.
So how did young Jonah find himself with all of this money, allowing him to live a luxurious life, traveling the globe? Through social engineering. Part theater and part science, social engineering is the method by which hackers, for lack of a better term, exploit vulnerabilities in human psychology.
By abusing warranty-based replacement systems, including different sob stories and humorous punchlines to customer services representatives, Jonah is able to manipulate other end of the line into shipping him free merchandise. It is not just the smaller companies that are vulnerable, either, but even the big companies – Apple, Microsoft, Razor, HP, Sony, Rolex – that are all at risk.
The most common abuser of the system tends to be teenagers with too much time and not enough supervision. Their scams rely on a universally flawed warranty system that does not require a defective item to be returned before mailing out its replacement. These scammers continue to multiply through social engineering websites, which are invite-only sites where hackers learn and share how to rip off companies as large as Amazon. They share play-by-play details, from the method, to stolen PayPal accounts and credit cards that can be purchased or traded for.
As online customer service becomes simpler to accommodate customer’s needs, they make it easier for scammers to hack their way into other’s accounts – taking advantage of their personal information. Due to the ease of playing the system, Jonah now has a fully stacked room of televisions, gadgets and more. Often, he sells these for cash, having the “replacement” devices sent right to the buyer’s address.
Jonah’s favorite customer service reps are the low-level or recently hired employees who simply follow the script, and are not quick to question anyone’s authenticity.
Eventually, Jonah knew that this scheme would lead to trouble. While on one of his lavish trips, he got the feeling that someone was on to him, causing him to rid of all his merchandise that he had accumulated at him.
He now works for a security company that works to stop social engineering, an art Jonah is quite familiar with.
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