Social Engineering Book Summary - Social Engineering Book explained in key points
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Social Engineering summary

Christopher Hadnagy

The Art of Human Hacking

4.2 (101 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

Social Engineering by Christopher Hadnagy is a guide to understanding and defending against social manipulation. It explores techniques used by social engineers to deceive and influence individuals, providing insight and practical advice for protecting oneself and one's organization.

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    Social Engineering
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    Social engineering is a way to gain influence over others without them knowing.

    Have you ever been persuaded into buying something only to realize later on that you don’t need or want whatever you’ve bought? If so, you’re not alone. Most of us have been brought under the influence of some social engineering tactic at one point or another.

    Social engineering is a set of psychological tricks that exploit human vulnerabilities to influence a target’s actions. These tricks can manifest themselves as spoken language, body language and hidden suggestions.

    Governments, salespeople and law enforcement officers are deeply familiar with these tactics, but the fact is that we all use social engineering, even with our friends, family and co-workers. For example, when a kid says “I love you, Mommy. Can I have a puppy for my birthday?” they are using social engineering to influence their parent.

    Of course, social engineering isn’t only about short-term gain; it can actually be used to do great harm to people. Scammers and con artists, for instance, use social engineering to manipulate their targets and compromise security systems.

    If you want to install malware onto a company’s server, you could go in guns blazing and fight your way to the server room. But that’s messy. A social engineer will instead do something like disguise themselves as an IT specialist and prepare a convincing story to get past security.

    Once inside, they’re free to do what they want and no one will be the wiser. As far as the security guard knows, the “IT person” was just doing their job.

    But no one wants to be conned like this. Luckily, we can protect ourselves with a solid understanding of how social engineering works.

    Security auditors, like the author, are hired to play the role of malicious social engineers to test a client’s security system by performing authorized penetration tests, or pentests for short, which are basically fake social engineering attacks. The client, of course, doesn’t know when, where or how this will happen.

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    What is Social Engineering about?

    Social Engineering (2011) reveals the secret methods hackers and con artists use to manipulate their targets and scam their victims. The book provides detailed step-by-step depictions of how criminals plan a scheme, and gives you all the tools you need to prevent yourself from being duped.

    Social Engineering Review

    Social Engineering (2020) explores the fascinating world of human manipulation and teaches readers how to protect themselves from social engineering attacks. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It provides a comprehensive overview of the different techniques used by social engineers, allowing readers to understand the methods employed to exploit human behavior.
    • With real-world examples and case studies, the book offers practical insights into how social engineering attacks can happen in everyday life, making it both eye-opening and informative.
    • By empowering readers with effective countermeasures and strategies to detect and prevent social engineering attacks, the book transforms a potentially dry subject into an engaging and essential read.

    Best quote from Social Engineering

    War is 90 percent information. - Napoleon

    —Christopher Hadnagy
    example alt text

    Who should read Social Engineering?

    • Anyone who wants to know how hackers and scammers plan a heist
    • Anyone interested in how to influence a stranger’s behavior
    • People who watched the BBC series Hustle or The Real Hustle

    About the Author

    Christopher Hadnagy is a security expert and professional social engineer. Previously, he worked on the BBC series The Real Hustle, in which he and Paul Wilson demonstrated how con men scam the innocent. He is also the author of Unmasking the Social Engineer.


    © Christopher Hadnagy: Social Engineering copyright 2011, John Wiley & Sons Inc. Used by permission of John Wiley & Sons Inc. and shall not be made available to any unauthorized third parties.

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    Social Engineering FAQs 

    What is the main message of Social Engineering?

    The main message of Social Engineering is understanding the art of influencing and manipulating people.

    How long does it take to read Social Engineering?

    The reading time for Social Engineering varies, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Social Engineering a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Social Engineering is a valuable read for understanding human behavior and protecting against manipulation.

    Who is the author of Social Engineering?

    Christopher Hadnagy is the author of Social Engineering.

    What to read after Social Engineering?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Social Engineering, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Human Hacking by Christopher Hadnagy with Seth Schulman
    • The Art of Influencing Anyone by Niall Cassidy
    • Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick
    • Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies by Romilla Ready and Kate Burton
    • Magic Words by Tim David
    • Fluent In 3 Months by Benny Lewis
    • How Not to Worry by Paul McGee
    • Brain Rules by John Medina
    • The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie
    • Speed Reading by Kam Knight