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By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2005-04-07 Print this article Print

This is just one of the schemes Stickley and his merry band will use. Its all very reminiscent of "Oceans Eleven" and requires the attacker to be a great liar and cool under pressure. And such attackers always carry an authorization document from someone in authority in case they arouse suspicion, which Stickley insists is not very often. When it happens its because someone was assiduous at following procedure, a trait that often goes unappreciated or even ridiculed in normal circumstances. If you were in charge, would you assign one of your people to follow the exterminator around?

Its also worth mentioning that large financial institutions like banks usually have internal security groups that do audits to cover situations like this, but I dont think they often get as creative as Trace Security.

Stickley also engages in the more common remote forms of social engineering of the Kevin Mitnick variety. If you got a call from the development group at headquarters and they asked you, for test purposes, to sign in to the new development Web site at, would you? You might, and then theyd have your log-in credentials. (Its in cases like this that two-factor authentication is useful, but its still not universal.) Stickley also will e-mail e-greeting cards to users that attempt to use Windows vulnerabilities to install malware that gives him a backdoor to the system. 

Do you want to worry about threats like Stickley every day while youre trying to get your job done? No, and neither do I. But unfortunately human failings are at the heart of most security breaches. In the end, the moral is that it can happen to you. Dont be complacent because youre in a big company that has security policies and even a budget for it. Dont think that because youre in a small company that you can fly under the radar. The Internet has made it too easy to attack anyone, and even small banks have money in them.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog. More from Larry Seltzer

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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