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Review - Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

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UNIX

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Post Sat Mar 20, 2010 7:53 am

Review - Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

A great book about Persuasion and Social Engineering.

The author, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini, spent about three years applying for jobs and instruction courses at sales operators, telemarketing firms, used car dealerships and similar ones in order to observe real-life situations of persuasion - and all this was done undercover, meaning that he didn't tell his true intentions when applying for one of the jobs.

The book introduces six main principles of persuasion: reciprocity, commitment/consistency, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity, whereas each of them is covered in a chapter. Each chapter explains in a simple way how different methods of persuasion work, supported by many examples, anecdotes and scientific studies.

Reciprocity: If someone received a favor she/ he will likely return one.

Commitment/ Consistency: When people commit an idea, goal or untertaking (either orally or on written form), it is more likely that they will stick to and honor it, even if the original motivations or reasons are no longer true or valid. This is because people tend to be consistent in their way of being and decisions for several reasons, which are explained in the book.

Social Proof: People often tend to beliefe what other people are doing or saying - especially if a lot of people are doing so. In on example mentioned, people gaze in the sky, and the more people are doing so, most probably other pedestrians will start to gaze too.

Authority: People obey authority persons, even if they order something, which is against ones personally principles, belief or moral. Two of the examples mentioned in this chapter includes the well-known Milgram experiments as well as the My Lai massacre.

Liking: People will accept an idea more easily, if it comes from a person they like. Therefore salesmen are often trained to dissemble interest in ones hobbies and interests and mirror body language and mimics for the very same reason. Tupperware partys are successful, because chances are higher, when products are offered from friends and people we know rather than from a salesman who's a stranger at all.

Studies also prove that attractive people can convince others more easily than people who are not so attractive.

Scarcity: Scarcity will raise demand on something. Therefore salesmen often declare products as only available for a limited time or in a limited quantity to create an artificial desire for them.

The reader will also get to know about different variations of those principles as well as countermeasures and how to protect oneself. The main reason why people can often get manipulated so easily is because of the world we live in, according to Cialdini. As it is full of information and everything has to go so fast, it's impossible to make all of our decisions based upon our concious decision-making process. Instead we rely on processes and decisions we have created throughout our life - shortcuts - in order to make life easier for ourselfs (click, whirrr). Predators exploit those then to fit their needs.


Full review is available here.
Last edited by UNIX on Sat Mar 20, 2010 8:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
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hayabusa

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Post Sun Mar 21, 2010 7:24 am

Re: Review - Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Hmmm... Looks like a good read.  Me thinks I'll add this to my ever-growing list, and I'll have to see when I can make time.
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Post Mon Mar 22, 2010 4:15 am

Re: Review - Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

souds like good material. lets start a discussion: can you teach social engineering by book? arent it skills you obtain by experience and something you learn along the way?
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hayabusa

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Post Mon Mar 22, 2010 5:23 am

Re: Review - Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Social engineering can be learned any number of ways...  Experience, books, videos - anything.  It's about understanding the people and systems you're targeting, by manipulating the people who have access, and learning to do that can come from just about any source, so long as it gives you the ability to 'be someone else' or gain the info you need via means other than just scanning for it, etc.  If you can learn effective methods for social engineering through the experience of others, and take away the valid / useful tools and points, and gain the ability to be a better 'hacker,' then whatever means yuo used to learn them are valid.

Case in point...  MANY people start learning social engineering through the books and study of Kevin Mitnick (perhaps the best known social engineer of the time.)  His books detail many of his methods, and tricks that he used to confuse, persuade and deceive, in order to gain access to places he otherwise wouldn't have.  Reading his books, watching some of the many documentary videos on him, etc, are just some of the many ways to gain knowledge in social engineering, and therefore, they are very valid, especially for the newcomer, to start getting the perspective of social engineering, and the hacker mindset.
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"All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved." - Sun Tzu, 'The Art of War'


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Post Mon Mar 22, 2010 5:34 am

Re: Review - Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

I agree with hayabusa. Of course it's great if you have already lot of experience or have the possibility to participate in a workshop or course. But when asking something like " can you teach social engineering by book?" you could also ask "can you teach programming by book?". Of course practice and experience are essential, but you have to start somewhere to get into it and learn about all the basics, concepts, etc.

I think Cialdini did a great job with the book, especially as there are many case studies which should help to forward the message about the different persuasion techniques covered in the book. After reading the book you certainly won't be a perfect social engineer (or salesman), but it should open your eyes and enable you to dive deeper into this topic, if you like to.
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Post Mon Mar 22, 2010 7:22 am

Re: Review - Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

you are both right, but i'm looking for an answer like: it doesnt matter how good you are theoretically, if you havent put your knowledge in use, do dont know how it works out. i believe this is one of those skills you can only be succesful in if you practice, practice, practice...ofcourse such books will help in the progress, but putting on a suit and going out there will be much more effective am i right?
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caissyd

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Post Mon Mar 22, 2010 7:41 am

Re: Review - Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Is this book about "computer-related" social engineering (getting access to a computer) or social engineering in general? I know the same exact concepts apply for both, but just as a curiosity.

I could use some practice on my wife right now...  ;)
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UNIX

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Post Mon Mar 22, 2010 10:31 am

Re: Review - Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

It's about persuasion in general. If I remember correctly, there's not one example related to it-security.
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Knb15

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Post Mon Mar 22, 2010 12:24 pm

Re: Review - Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

awesec wrote:It's about persuasion in general. If I remember correctly, there's not one example related to it-security.


You're correct. I read this book as part of a psychology course i took years ago. There's no security related example, but one can always apply the ideas and theories to the technology field.

It's indeed a great book.. if for nothing else, at least to learn when to say "no."
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pizza1337

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Post Mon Mar 22, 2010 2:25 pm

Re: Review - Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Sounds like a great book. i am gonna read it.

social engineering ftw!
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UNIX

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Post Tue Mar 23, 2010 3:05 am

Re: Review - Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

pizza1337: Just in case if you haven't read the complete review: You may take a look at Influence: Science & Practice, which is also about those six principles of persuasion, but is a more complete discussion on the topic. It also includes more updated references and more recent examples and stories.
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pizza1337

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Post Tue Mar 23, 2010 5:01 am

Re: Review - Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

awesec wrote:pizza1337: Just in case if you haven't read the complete review: You may take a look at Influence: Science & Practice, which is also about those six principles of persuasion, but is a more complete discussion on the topic. It also includes more updated references and more recent examples and stories.


Will look.
http://www.amazon.com/Covert-Persuasion ... 0470051418
I read this book while a go, its not the worst book, but it does have good tips in it.
http://t3hgr0up.wordpress.com/2010/02/0 ... ersuasion/
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