Cybercrime: Unsocial Engineering

When I first heard the term “social engineering” I thought of high rise buildings and moving people from back-to-back terraced housing in the 1960s, in the vain hope that it would create a new (even improved?) social dynamic. That is roughly what the term meant to most social scientists. Quite surprised that it was being presented as a type of cybercrime. Of course the attempt at improving housing mostly failed, but some people made a lot of money out of it.

The latter phrase is about all I can see that links “social engineering” in the cyber security sense with developments in housing in the 60s and 70s. Sometimes a term is coined and because no-one really understands the problem or can think of a better one, then the term remains. Well, I don’t suppose I’ll have much success but I’d like to start a campaign to ban “social engineering”, and replace it with something that is more clearly seen as criminal activity – deception. What happens in the cyber world almost always has a parallel in the real world. Is this cybercrime or cyber enabled crime? It doesn’t really matter but at least deception is still considered to be a crime!

We all learn about deception as children… through parents, friends (or not so…) and nursery rhymes. We are therefore on the lookout for people trying to spin us a story in order to get our money (or worse, in the case of “Little Red Riding Hood”). If the danger from emails, web pages, and social media from cyber space was presented as “deception”, rather than a term that means little to anyone outside the profession, we might get somewhere. The “crafty con man” (or woman) becomes “the big bad wolf”. Is this instilling fear? Well, I’ve just heard a heart-rending story on the radio of a woman deceived to the tune of £140K thanks to a contact made on a dating website, so a bit more caution wouldn’t go amiss!

Is it worth starting a petition or am I a saddo for even thinking of it?

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