Getting Into Bed With Robin Sage: The Fallout & The Proof of Concept
The Robin Sage Affair:
Recently, the INFOSEC community found itself with its virtual pants around its digital ankles through the machinations of “Robin Sage” a faux profile created on a number of social networking sites including InkedIn. The profile sported a goth girl and the attending personal data claimed that she worked for N8 Naval Warfare Center and was basically the inspiration for Abby Sciuto, a character from NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) on CBS.
The man behind the profile and the experiment is Thomas Ryan, the co-founder and Managing Partner of Cyber Operations and Threat Intelligence for Provide Security. His idea was to test the social networking process to see if he by proxy of this profile, could get people to just add Robin without any real vetting. A secondary part of the experiment was also to see just how much information could be gathered by the cutout and see just how damaging such actions could be to end users who “just click yes” to anyone who wishes to be added.
In the end, within a 28 day period the account harvested not only compromising data (much of the worst from LinkedIn) but also invitations to speak at conferences, job offers, and I am sure, the odd lascivious offers to “meet” The byproduct of this experiment in the short term (after her outing, so to speak) is that the Infosec community members who were duped are feeling, well, a bit sheepish right now. After all, these are the people who are supposed to be teaching others on how not to get compromised like this. Especially so with a social engineering exploit that worked so knee jerk well.
Twitter has been abuzz with condemnation and who knows what’s being said in the halls of power and in the military since many of the folks who got duped were military operators. All of this though glosses over a pertinent fact for me however. One that may be in fact brought out in the talk at Black Hat, but I thought it interesting to write about here. The problems of how humans are wired neurologically and our needs to be “social” We come pre-loaded and then taught social norms that are counter much of the time to secure actions.
It is my contention that human beings are a social animal that are wired and trained to be trusting as well as gullible when a pretty woman says “please add me” Sure, we can train ourselves to be skeptical and to seek out more information, but, in our society of late it seems that we have even lost more of this capability because we do not teach critical thinking in school as much as wrote learning. Of course this is just one aspect of a bigger picture and I really want to focus on the brain wiring and social training.
As social animals, we ‘want” to be social (most of us that is) and long to communicate. After all, that is what the internet is all about lately huh? Not being actually in the room with people but able to talk/chat with them online in “social networks” In other cases we are forced to be social in the sense that our lives depend on our social natures. We cooperate with others, we live with others and we depend on others for our safety in numbers, infrastructure continuance, etc. Thus we evolved into tribes, clans, societies, and now its going global. All of this is predicated on some modicum of trust in relationships.
Trust relationships though are just one thing. We trust as we walk down the street that the people walking toward us will not whip out a gun and just start shooting at you. We trust that the driver on the other side of the road will not just veer out in front of us for no apparent reason because that would be counter productive and not the “norm” However, these things can and do happen from time to time, yet, we do not find ourselves on permanent alert as we walk the streets because if we were then we would be a wreck. Turning that around, we would then be seen as paranoid and not “normal”
See where I am going with that?
So, in the sense of online social networks and security, these things are just diametrically opposed. If you want to be social, don’t enter into areas of discourse where your “security” is supposed to be protected. It is akin to walking up to a stranger and telling them your doors at home are unlocked most of the time. Believe me it happens now and then, but don’t you then start thinking that that person just has something fundamentally wrong with them? Its the same for any online relationship. Nickerson said it best.. Unless you really know them or have.. “spit roasted” someone with them, then don’t add them or tell them secret things… But.. Then there is that whole trust issue.
We are trusting and want to follow social norms. THIS is why social engineering works so well! We are just wired for it and to change these behaviors really requires training.
Additionally, lets take into account the hotness factor with this particular experiment. The pictures of “Robin” were obvious to some as being of someone who would NOT have a job at N8 or any facility/group with classified access and responsibilities. I took one look and thought;
“Look at that nip slip and belly shot there on the Facebook.. No way this is a real profile because her clearance would be yanked ASAP”
Others though, may have looked at those pics and thought “damn, I want to meet her, I will add her and chat her up” This begs the question of just what the ratio was of men to women who asked to be added or just clicked add on the Robin Sage profile. Were the numbers proportionally higher men to women I wonder? I actually believe that to be the case. In fact, this is an important thing to take note of as we are dealing with a very familiar tactic in espionage realms.
“The Swallow” or “Honeytrap”
How many have fallen for the “Russian Secretary” over the years and then been turned into an agent for Russia? The same principle is being used here. The bait is a cute goth chick who happens to work in the very same field you do! A field mind you that is still primarily loaded with guys. So this is just moth to the flame here. It is so common that perhaps we cannot get past our own hard wired brain and sexual drives huh? It will be interesting to see the talk at Black Hat to get the stats.
So, once again, those who got spanked by this and are griping now, I say take a long look at the problem. You fell victim to your own programming. You could potentially have not fallen prey to it, and perhaps in the future you won’t, but, take this as a learning experience and move on.
Use this experience to teach others.
Object lesson learned.
Full CSO article HERE
Written by Krypt3ia
2010/07/08 at 18:43
Posted in Con Games, Corporate Intelligence, Covert Ops, Espionage, History Repeats Itself, HUMINT, Industrial Espionage, Infosec, Infowar, Matahari, Neurobiology, OPSEC, OSINT, Privacy, PsyOPS, Security, Security Theater, Social Engineering, Subversive Behavior, The Long Con, The Short Con, Tradecraft, Trust
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