How to avoid a social engineering attack at Black Hat and Def Con

Next week, security professionals and hackers will descend on Las Vegas for the Black Hat security conference and Def Con 21. Security vendors and news organizations often talk about precautions and offer security advice this time of year, but Chris Hadnagy, from Social-Engineer Inc., has some additional thoughts, which focus on the human side of security.

Social engineering is a topic that should be at the forefront of every security discussion, but the reality is much different. Humans are helpful creatures, and as a recent CSO story explained, they are often the weakest part of the security chain. With that said, Hadnagy has put together a blog post that offers nine tips to help you avoid being socially engineered while you're in Las Vegas next week.

First on the list is documentation, such as travel documents, receipts, and other sensitive papers. When the time comes for them to be disposed of, be mindful of the fact that dumpster diving is a huge risk. Gathering information from the trash may seem like an unlikely and disgusting threat, but it isn't. Sensitive information is thrown away all the time, and the locks that guard the hotel's dumpsters are easily bypassed.

Sticking to risks inside the room, Hadnagy also reminds you not to place a large amount of trust in the safe. Previous talks at Def Con have shown that these locks can be opened easily. Likewise, if the phone rings, remember to never give out sensitive information, even if you think you know who's on the other end of the call.

"Never give out sensitive information over the phone, especially if you received, rather than placed the call. Use known public contact telephone numbers for your bank, credit card, and other sensitive accounts and dial them directly to avoid voice phishing (or, vishing) attacks," Hadnagy writes.

While interacting with others at the conference (including attendees and hotel staff), be mindful of Elicitation, or the act of subtle extraction of information during what would by all accounts be a harmless conversation.

"Many elements of seemingly innocuous conversation can actually provide skilled attackers with valuable information," Hadnagy adds.

Social media is another major consideration. You should secure access to your Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn accounts before you arrive at the conferences, but at the same time, be mindful of who you're interacting with.

[Slideshow: 15 social media scams]

"We all use social media readily through events like this; to find the next cool briefing, exchange commentary and to organize times and places to physically connect," Hadnagy explains.

"However, you cannot take it for granted that the person you follow and converse with normally is not being impersonated at a show like this. So, always use the https option for connecting to these services; use two factor authentication measures to verify any changes; and watch what you click on in social media!"

Finally, think before you act, and use your critical thinking skills at all times. For other technical tips that can help keep you secure while in Vegas, CSO's Tony Bradley has a list of his own, which can be viewed here.

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