Learn how to rob a bank?

Learn how to rob a bank?

Computer hacker silhouette of hooded man with binary data and network security terms
Social engineering conference takes you inside the hacker’s mind

NEWPORT – It’s not just computers getting hacked: People are getting hacked too. More than 70 percent of all data breaches in the last year involved phishing or some other type of social engineering.

That means that one of the weakest links in computer security is, well, us. Hackers are using these social engineering techniques to get passwords, credit card data, patient data and other personal information that we all look to protect.

Lincoln resident Patrick Laverty, who hacks companies for a living (technically he’s referred to as a penetration tester and he helps companies find and fix their weaknesses), is organizing Social Engineering RI (@SocialEngRI on Twitter) New England’s first social engineering conference on Saturday, June 16, at the Pell Center at Salve Regina University, in Newport, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Laverty said he got the idea over the winter to bring in hackers from around the country to give presentations on things such as phishing and other similar social engineering techniques. The co-organizer of the event is Lea Snyder.

To be clear, said Laverty, this event is for everyone, not just those in the hacking industry. Someone may be interested in knowing how to get into the industry or just how to navigate today’s world in a safe way.

Social engineering, as it pertains to information security, is the use of deception to manipulate people into revealing confidential information for use in fraudulent activities. Its continued rise in a connected world has made professional hackers (the good kind) some of the most sought-after experts anywhere, hired by companies and individuals to expose their vulnerabilities.

So how does one keep the bad guys from coming to such a conference?

“You don’t,” says Laverty, but just as the conferences he’s gone to that teach how to pick a lock to show them how easy it is and how they can take steps to protect themselves, this all-day event will reveal the defenses needed to avoid being a victim.

“If you’re not aware that these things exist, you’re more likely to be a victim,” he said.

Sessions on June 16 will have such tantalizing titles as “How to Rob a Bank Over the Phone.” That might seem like a matter of too much information until you realize the person who’s presenting, Joshua Crumbaugh, was hired by the bank to rob the institution.

“Now if you’re not hired by the bank to do it, that’s illegal,” said Laverty.

Other titles include “Social Engineers are Jerks” and “Make Vishing Suck Less.”

Attendees will learn the art of the pretexts attackers use to make their pitch believable and suck them in.

The full-day conference will bring together some of the best minds in the field of social engineering, including Christopher Hadnagy (@humanhacker), author of “Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking.”

The event will also feature:

• A panel with the winners of the “Social Engineering Capture the Flag” competition at the popular hacker conference DEF CON.

• Academic research on social engineering from Aunshul Rege, a professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Temple University.

The entire event is $50, and includes lunch. Laverty (@plaverty9) said more than 100 people have signed up to date (visit www.se-ri.org for more). The conference is so affordable because the speakers, as is common in the hacking community, are doing it all for free. This is a nonprofit event, said Laverty, and is just looking to break even. There will be some “swag handouts.”

Laverty said he wanted something more specific than the generic information technology security conference, the type of event he’s been going to in Rhode Island since 2013. Few conferences in the country have focused on the specifics of social engineering and the dangers it poses.

Organizers say they’re proud to be partnering with the Innocent Lives Foundation, a nonprofit organization with a goal of unmasking child predators. Attendees are encouraged to donate their time, skills and/or money to the group.

Sponsors include the Brown University School of Professional Studies and CyberSN.

Lincoln resident Patrick Laverty is organizing Social Engineering RI on Saturday, June 16, at the Pell Center at Salve Regina University, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.