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Home : Advisories : Social Engineering

Title: Social Engineering
Released by: CERT
Date: 18th April 1991
Printable version: Click here

Hash: SHA1

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Last revised: September 18,1997

                Attached copyright statement

                               CERT Advisory

                               April 18, 1991

                             Social Engineering

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The Computer Emergency Response Team/Coordination Center (CERT/CC) has

received several incident reports concerning users receiving requests

to take an action that results in the capturing of their password.  The

request could come in the form of an e-mail message, a broadcast, or a

telephone call.  The latest ploy instructs the user to run a "test"

program, previously installed by the intruder, which will prompt the

user for his or her password.  When the user executes the program, the

user's name and password are e-mailed to a remote site.  We are

including an example message at the end of this advisory.

These messages can appear to be from a site administrator or root.  In

reality, they may have been sent by an individual at a remote site, who

is trying to gain access or additional access to the local machine via

the user's account.

While this advisory may seem very trivial to some experienced users,

the fact remains that MANY users have fallen for these tricks (refer to

CERT Advisory CA-91:03).


An intruder can gain access to a system through the unauthorized use of

the (possibly privileged) accounts whose passwords have been

compromised.  This problem could affect all systems, not just UNIX 

systems or systems on the Internet.


The CERT/CC recommends the following actions:

    1)  Any users receiving such a request should verify its authenticity

        with their system administrator before acting on the instructions

        within the message.  If a user has received this type of

        request and actually entered a password, he/she should immediately

        change his/her password to a new one and alert the system 


    2)  System administrators should check with their user communities

        to ensure that no user has followed the instructions in such

        a message. Further, the system should be carefully examined for

        damage or changes that the intruder may have caused.  We also

        ask that you contact the CERT/CC.

    3)  The CERT/CC urges system administrators to educate their users

        so that they will not fall prey to such tricks.

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SAMPLE MESSAGE as received by the CERT (including spelling errors, etc.)

       OmniCore is experimenting in online - high resolution graphics

       display on the UNIX BSD 4.3 system and it's derivitaves. But, we

       need you're help in testing our new product - TurboTetris.

       So, if you are not to busy, please try out the ttetris game in your

       machine's /tmp directory. just type:


       Because of the graphics handling and screen-reinitialazation, you will

       be prompted to log on again. Please do so, and use your real password.

       Thanks you for your support. You'll be hearing from us soon!



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If you believe that your system has been compromised, contact CERT/CC via

telephone or e-mail.

Computer Emergency Response Team/Coordination Center (CERT/CC)

Software Engineering Institute

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890

Internet E-mail: cert@cert.org

Telephone: 412-268-7090 24-hour hotline:

           CERT/CC personnel answer 7:30a.m.-6:00p.m. EST,

           on call for emergencies during other hours.

Past advisories and other computer security related information are available

for anonymous ftp from the cert.org ( system.

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Copyright 1991 Carnegie Mellon University. Conditions for use, disclaimers,

and sponsorship information can be found in

http://www.cert.org/legal_stuff.html and http://ftp.cert.org/pub/legal_stuff .

If you do not have FTP or web access, send mail to cert@cert.org with

"copyright" in the subject line.

CERT is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.


Revision History

September 18,1997  Attached Copyright Statement


Version: PGP for Personal Privacy 5.0

Charset: noconv





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