College Blog Archive: Social Engineering

The following information is from my College Archive of assigned weekly Blogs.
This blog comes from my Web Application Security Class

Web Application Security Topic – Social Engineering

Original Post Date:  Sunday, April 15th, 2012

This week’s blog will identify and provide some brief details on six (6) major social engineering individuals and/or attacks.

Kevin Mitnick

Kevin Mitnick, born on August 6, 1963, is an American computer security expert, consultant, author and a hacker.  At one time, he was the most wanted computer criminal in the United States.  His mastery of deceptions and social engineering began at the age of 12 when he manipulated punch cards used by the Los Angeles Bust systems to obtain free rides.  He is a master of obtaining information such as usernames, passwords and phone numbers. 
The FBI arrested Kevin in 1995.  In his possession at that time was several cloned cell phones, more than 100 codes, and a plethora of fake IDs and identification.  Criminal activity such as evading the FBI,  gaining administrative rights to an IBM minicomputer and hacking into Digital Equipment Corporation, Motorola, Nokia, Fujitsu and other systems.  After five years in prison, Kevin Mitnick was released in 2000 and today owns and operates Mitnick Security Consulting LLC, which consults companies on computer security.

David “Race” Bannon

Born in 1963, David “Race” Bannon claimed to have worked in Asia as a Mormon missionary who later turned to work as a secret agent “cleaner” to eliminate criminals that were out of reach of other law enforcement agencies.  He created his fake history that also included involvement with Interpol and human trafficking in order to earn money for consulting or giving presentations on these topics.  He was arrested in 2006 on charges of criminal impersonation, computer crime and attempted theft.  It is believed that David received fines as opposed to prison time and later released his book:   Race Against Evil: The Secret Missions of the Interpol Agent Who Tracked the World’s Most Sinister Criminals.

Peter Foster

Australian, Peter Foster born in 1962, began his adult life as a boxing promoter at the age of 17.  At age 20 he was fined by the Australian court system for a fraudulent insurance claim when a promoted boxing match fell through.  Since then, Peter has been convicted and jailed on three continents for money laundering, false property transactions, and bogus products for smoking cessation and weight loss.  As of 2012, Peter Foster is on parole from charges of a misleading diet-spray scam.

Steven Jay Russell

Born in 1957, Steven Jay Russell is a famous con artist and imposter.  Steven has impersonated several professions such as a pilot, an attorney and a doctor to successfully steal millions of dollars.  He has several aliases, but two of the most famous nicknames are “Houdini” and “King Con” which were given to him for his several successful prison escapes.  Some of his escapes relied on his ability to impersonate a judge and an FBI agent.  In 2009 “I Love You Phillip Morris” was released starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor.  This film told the story of his life, crimes and love for his boyfriend Philip Morris.  Today, Steven Russell is still serving his 144 year prison sentence at Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Frank Abagnale, Jr.

Born in 1948, Frank Abagnale became notorious for passing $2.5 million worth of forged checks across 26 countries during the 1960s.  He had at minimum eight separate identities that include an airline pilot, doctor and a lawyer.  His areas of expertise included check forgery, imposter, trickster, impersonator, and escape artist.  One of his most infamous tricks was committing bank fraud by putting his own blank deposit slips into a stack of real slips at the bank.  Customers would mistakenly deposit their money into his account by using these strategically placed slips.  His autobiography “Catch Me If You Can” was released in 1980 and gave path to a 2002 movie featuring Leonardo DiCaprio playing Frank Abagnale.  Today, Frank is the CEO of Abagnale & Associates which are a group of security consultants


I would like to finish this blog with a current day social engineering topic.  This information is from a March 12, 2012 news story on  There have been recent attacks on one of NATO’s top military commanders, Admiral James Staviris.  Attackers are using the popular social networking site Facebook to create fake pages in attempts to engage co-workers, friends and family into revealing private and confidential information.  The person or group behind the attacks is currently “unknown” but military officials are suspicion continues to increase towards being a part of China’s espionage program.  Facebook has been co-operative with regards to the attacks on Staviris and continues to remove these fake pages.
In conclusion, we have looked at a few famous names in social engineering and even discussed a current day issue.  Social engineering involves a human aspect of being able to trick or manipulate others into revealing or submitting confidential and private information that can be used in malicious attacks.  The chances of falling victim to a social engineering attack in today’s world is very probably and is an area in which all individuals and companies should be trained and educated in.
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