Social Engineering: I-E based Model of Human Weakness for Attack and Defense Investigations

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Wenjun Fan 1,* Kevin Lwakatare 2 Rong Rong 3

1. Department of Telematics Engineering, ETSI Telecommunication Technical University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain

2. Department of Computer Science, TUT Centre for Digital Forensics and Cyber Security Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn, Estonia

3. IE Business School, Madrid, Spain

* Corresponding author.


Received: 4 May 2016 / Revised: 10 Sep. 2016 / Accepted: 11 Oct. 2016 / Published: 8 Jan. 2017

Index Terms

Social Engineering, Semantic Attacks, Information Security, Data Privacy, Hacking Techniques, Human Weaknesses


Social engineering is the attack aimed to manipulate dupe to divulge sensitive information or take actions to help the adversary bypass the secure perimeter in front of the information-related resources so that the attacking goals can be completed. Though there are a number of security tools, such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems which are used to protect machines from being attacked, widely accepted mechanism to prevent dupe from fraud is lacking. However, the human element is often the weakest link of an information security chain, especially, in a human-centered environment. In this paper, we reveal that the human psychological weaknesses result in the main vulnerabilities that can be exploited by social engineering attacks. Also, we capture two essential levels, internal characteristics of human nature and external circumstance influences, to explore the root cause of the human weaknesses. We unveil that the internal characteristics of human nature can be converted into weaknesses by external circumstance influences. So, we propose the I-E based model of human weakness for social engineering investigation. Based on this model, we analyzed the vulnerabilities exploited by different techniques of social engineering, and also, we conclude several defense approaches to fix the human weaknesses. This work can help the security researchers to gain insights into social engineering from a different perspective, and in particular, enhance the current and future research on social engineering defense mechanisms.

Cite This Paper

Wenjun Fan, Kevin Lwakatare, Rong Rong, "Social Engineering: I-E based Model of Human Weakness for Attack and Defense Investigations", International Journal of Computer Network and Information Security(IJCNIS), Vol.9, No.1, pp.1-11, 2017. DOI:10.5815/ijcnis.2017.01.01


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