Brad Smith: The Power of the Ultimate Social Engineer

Saturday, February 11, 2012

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Article by Christopher “loganWHD” Hadnagy

For over two years we have been analyzing all sorts of people from all sorts of fields.  We have dissected their methods, philosophies and their careers to see what we can learn about how to enhance our social engineering skills and deepen our understanding of human nature.

So we wanted to devote this article to a very special individual – Brad “theNurse” Smith. For those of us that know Brad it probably didn’t take long to put a huge smile on our face just remembering our last interaction with him.  For those of us that do not know him, let me tell you a little about Brad.

Brad is an older gentleman, average size, with longer silver hair.  He is an avid student of NLP, Social Engineering and the human psyche. The way he talks is very controlled, calm and always listening more than talking.  He knows how to make you feel like you are not only important, but when you are speaking to him you are the most important person in the room.

Brad’s deeper, low toned voice is soothing to the listener and his calm demeanor makes you feel at ease right away.

In mid November Brad was slated to give a speech at Hacker Halted in Miami, Fl USA.  While getting up for his speech and going on stage he suffered a hemorrhagic stroke.  I am no doctor, but what I have been told is this type of stroke is where a blood vessel bursts in your brain and causes the stroke.

Quickly Leonard Chin from Hacker Halted called 911 and got him to the local hospital, Jackson Memorial.  Brad was rushed to surgery and after removing the blood clot, Brad was in a coma and in the ICU.

What does all of this have to do with Social Engineering?  It was only a matter of hours and what I personally saw happen convinced me of the power of rapport.  So many all over the world from the community jumped into action.  It was only a few more hours and what I saw next just amazed me even more…. We set up a quick and dirty donation page to help collect money to cover the expenses that Brad and his wife were incurring from travel, hotels, hospital bills and more.

Now think of this, on a site called SOCIAL-ENGINEER.ORG we have a button that says “give us your credit card numbers and donate money…. After thinking about it I was convinced a few that knew us and a few that knew we are about education and not scamming would donate.  What I didn’t expect was after only a week or so seeing over $10,000 USD in donations to help them out.

What would motivate strangers to do this?

During the donation process the donator has the choice to add a note… read some of the notes added:

  • We love you Brad.
  • Brad and I chatted for the first time at BlackHat 2010. He's been a fixture forever, so I knew who he was, but had no expectation that he knew me. Didn't matter, just chatted like we were old friends. Thanks, man. Get better and see you at DC2012.
  • God bless Brad the Nurse and his family. One Good Dude.
  • I was in Brad's class when the incident happened. Brad does not know me personally but I have been following him for a long period of time and this is very sad. Most of my friends are close friends of Brad and we will all pray for his well-being. I wish you strength in those very harsh moments and we will pray for him.
  • Brad is a great man, and a great friend. He and his family are in our thoughts.
  • Get well. Our community hurts when one of our own is down. Never met you, but you and your family are in my thoughts. Wish I could donate more.
  • I know it's been a while since you both heard from me (and I moved from Montana almost six years ago now), but I still remember you fondly!...and my heart and thoughts are with both of you during this time. Hang in there. I just know Brad is made of tough stuff and he'll be back with us soon.
  • Brad, you have been a true source of knowledge and encouragement.  You have taught me, mentored me and I pray for your quick recovery.  I cannot wait to meet you amazing wife.  Hang in there, buddy.  I hope what I have tried to do here makes you happy and feel the love that we all feel for you.
  • Social-Engineer -- Thanks for doing this to help them! Brad and Nina, hang in there. I wish you peace and strength.
  •  Godspeed and prayers Brad and family. I've never met you, perhaps have seen you at con, and if it means anything, I forgot all training and paranoia and followed a link from the Social Engineer.org website to Paypal (!!) and typed in credit, address, phone and email information.

What could possibly motivate people from all over the world to donate their hard earned money to a person they may not know very well or have seen only at the cons? 

This is one of those aspects of social engineering we have discussed in detail over the years.  It involves building a strong bond, rapport.  My partner in the Social Engineering for Penetration Testers course wrote a book entitled, “Its Not all About Me” covers the top ten techniques for building rapport.

Brad is living personification of all ten of those techniques.  And the “proof is in the pudding” so they say, in the sense that a community of thousands is behind him and his wife offer prayers, positive thoughts, their time, effort, money and support because of the way he made us all feel.

CONCLUSION

What’s the main lesson in all this? Truly caring for other people, making what is important to them, important to you and being a great listener creates bonds that transcend a community, a conference or a speech.

Positive Energy is key to truly influencing the masses…

While we often focus on how social engineering skills can be used to break into companies or otherwise obtain information that is supposed to be protected, Brad demonstrates the positive aspects of these skills, and shows how they can be put to good use. Brad uses social engineering skills and techniques not to deceive, but to better communicate and build relations with others.

He does not do this for personal gain, but because he cares about people to such an extent that this becomes his way of making sure everyone understands how important they are to him. Brad is an example of everything is positive about social engineering and our community in general, and we are proud to be there when he and his wife are in need.

If you would like to contribute to help Brad out, please visit http://www.social-engineer.org/bradsmithdonation/.

Chris Hadnagy, aka loganWHD, has been involved with computers and technology for over 14 years. Presently his focus is on the “human” aspect of technology such as social engineering and physical security. Chris has spent time in providing training in many topics aorund the globe and also has had many articles published in local, national and international magazines and journals. He is the lead developer of Social-Engineer.Org and a professional Social Engineering Penetration Tester.  He is the author of the best-selling book, Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking. Chris can be found online at www.social-engineer.org, twitter as @humanhacker.

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Lance Miller Please contribute and help Brad out, please visit http://www.social-engineer.org/bradsmithdonation/.
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