Social engineering typically is viewed as an unsolvable risk within organizations, but it can also work in an organization's favor if it is used to influence more secure behaviors among employees.
Commonly used by criminals to trick users into clicking on links or attachments they shouldn't -- which allows malware to enter a corporate network -- the technique of social engineering also can be employed to break the conventional way workers think about security, said John Proctor, director of cyber resilience at CGI, an IT outsourcing and consulting firm, who spoke Tuesday at SC Congress Canada in Toronto.
"Social engineering is only bad if we let it bad," Proctor said. "[Humans] are only the greatest weakness if you let them be."
Citing the success of anti-smoking campaigns that impelled young people not to pick up the habit, Proctor said the same can be done for security. The goal is to "get inside" the heads of workers -- and adolescents -- and make security interesting.
At the workplace, he suggested instituting measures ranging from quizzes and tests all the way to challenges with prizes, such as being the first employee to walk over to a co-worker's unlocked computer to send an email from their account without them knowing.
The key, Proctor said, is to create value, connect security with social norms, and, most importantly, offer employees feedback of their progress. He added that it is important to make employees aware of all the personal information about them that may be publicly available on the web.