Unmasking the Social Engineer
Sharing proven scientific methodology for reading, understanding, and deciphering non-verbal communications, Unmasking the Social Engineer arms readers with the knowledge needed to help protect their organizations.
Unmasking the Social Engineer
What Is Nonverbal Communication?
Emotion always has its roots in the unconscious and manifests itself in the body.
- Irene Claremont de Castillejo
My first book, Social Engineering : The Art of Human Hacking , touched on the subject of communication modeling. I talked about how important it is to develop and understand the model around which you and others communicate.
Communication modeling is understanding the methods used to give and receive information. For instance, if you are communicating through email the sender (you) has to transmit emotion, intention, and message using only words, emoticons, and phrasing. The receiver (recipient) has to decipher this based on their state of mind and the way they interpret your email. In the communications cycle, feedback, in its varied forms, is critical.
If you are communicating in person, on the other hand, the sender has not only the words spoken but the body language, facial expressions, and more to relay the message. This means that a social engineer needs to model their communication style, method, and content based on the manner of communication as well as the receiver.
This chapter focuses on nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication is a rich and complex topic, so this chapter first identifies what nonverbal communication is before breaking it down into smaller subsets.
To understand nonverbal communication, you must also understand what each one of our senses adds to the way we communicate. That is the crux of this chapter. I will touch on these topics and give an overview of what comprises the whole of nonverbal communications.
For instance, suppose you are giving a speech in front of a large group. As you look into the crowd, you see some people yawning, some using their mobile devices, and some leaning on their hands with their eyelids drooping. What do these actions mean? Without any words, you probably can conclude that you are losing your audience and that they are bored and uninterested.
Why? One simple reason: nonverbal communication. Many studies attach a percentage to how much of what we communicate is nonverbal. Some say that more than 50 percent of communication is nonverbal. In my work with Dr. Ekman, I have learned that it is hard to attach a real percentage to this phenomenon because it changes according to the type of communication, its purpose, toward whom it is directed, and many other factors. However, everyone agrees that the percentage would be high if a percentage could be attached to it.
Think back to the last time you received a text message or email that you interpreted as being harsh or sarcastic, but later you found out that was not the sender's (transmitter's) intent. Why does this happen? When you are reading a message without the transmitter present, you interject your feelings and present emotional state into the message.
I remember one hectic day when my brain was going in 50 directions and I was stressed out. Someone sent me a message that said something like "I tried calling you a few times. If you decide to actually work today, give me a call." I was seeing red. How dare he accuse me of being lazy! Doesn't he know how much I've done today? I've probably accomplished more today than he has in the last three weeks! I'll give him a piece of my mind!
I wrote a long email, chewing him out. But as I reread it, I began to hear in my head how angry I sounded. I thought about who had sent the email and how we always joked around. I was stressed and under pressure and had put my emotional state on the sender of the email. Emails lack voice tone, facial expressions, and body language to help us get the message the sender is trying to send.
If I had been sitting in front of that person, I would have seen his smile and jovial nature. These would have quickly quel