Social Engineering: The clever manipulation of the natural human tendency to trust.

Our brains are programmed at birth for bonding to parents and guardians, which increases our odds of survival. When predators manipulate our nature against us, it is called “Social Engineering”5,6. Social engineers trick people of all ages to gain access to passwords and information by manipulating them. They are the scam artists and con artists of the internet and are experts in human nature. Do not fall for their schemes by believing that you are immune to their tactics.

It is in your best interests to know your biases as well as the predators do. Predators use social engineering and their understanding of cognitive biases to gain the upper hand. Cognitive biases are errors in thinking that occur because of how your brain processes information to simplify it. As a result, humans make decisions and judgments based on limited information. Below are examples of common cognitive biases:

  1. Dunning-Kruger Effect7: A belief that you are better than average. The less knowledge or ability that a person has, the more confident they are in that knowledge or ability. In other words, a person thinks they know more than they really do, or they overestimate their own ability, judgment, or competence.

    Example: 90% of drivers think they are better than average (statistically impossible), or they believe that they can win a marathon, even though they have never run more than 1 mile.

  2. Overgeneralizing: Making an overall judgment or prediction based on one incident. Even if it happens one time, a person sees it as happening repeatedly.

    Example: I did not do well in a job interview for a job I wanted, so I will never get a good job.

  3. The Actor Observer Bias: Our assessment of a person or a situation depends on whether we are the one doing the action, or whether we are just observing it. If it applies to us personally, we tend to use external reasons, whereas if it happens to others, we tend to use internal reasons.

    Example: I was late for school because a train delayed me. He was late for school because he is lazy.

  4. Confirmation Bias: People pay more attention to and give more weight to evidence supporting our own beliefs about the world. We downplay, discount, or ignore evidence to the contrary.

    Example: I know whether I am talking to a predator or not. They cannot outsmart me.

  5. Self-Serving Bias: We blame outside sources, such as circumstances, when we fail, and give ourselves credit when we succeed.

    Example: I did well in math class because I studied hard. I failed P.E. because the gym is so far away, and I could not get there in time.

We are all born with natural cognitive biases that make us think we are smarter, luckier, and more immune to bad things than we really are. Cyber predators know how to manipulate people with social engineering. They count on adults being under-educated on internet dangers and young people being overconfident in their internet knowledge and experience.