Saturday, March 15, 2008

Social Engineering Strikes Again

Angela Valdez of the Washington City Paper recently publish a story on the multi-year crime spree of Ameenah Franks. Franks did not pull bank jobs or white collar stock market scams. She did not deal in any large scale frauds or violent robberies. She took relatively small amounts of money (the cash she found at the time) from people she had never met before. How did she manage this? By doing something that I have said for years is a major vulnerability in any security system, acting like you belong.
She walked into numerous building around the DC area and casually searched through desk drawers, file cabinets and common areas nabbing the cash that she found. Citing her intelligence as one of her greatest success factors, she would not only not avoid confrontations (a standard practice for most people when gaining illegal access), but actually would make a point of talking to people. Although caught a number of times and now serving time for her continued thefts, it is not immediately clear how much she has stolen over the years.
To me, more than any purported intelligence, her arrogance seems to play a large part in what she did. She, like many people who knowingly commit criminal acts, justified her actions in numerous ways. It appears that these justifications fed back into her assessment of her own intelligence (I know this is wrong, but this is why it is ok. Other people around me didn't think of it this way, which proves me to be smarter). The confidence in confrontations also seems to be more based in arrogance than anything else. It could be argued that without a healthy (or unhealthy depending on your viewpoint) dose of confident self image one could not pull off the thefts that she did, but it seems that one of the larger reasons she was caught was because she continued to make mistakes based on her belief that she was smart enough to get away with it all. In the end her pattern of behavior and a few persistent and rightly suspicious people put a stop (at least temporarily) to her thieving spree.

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