I’m still out traveling, so below is a personal vignette about social engineering.

A couple of weeks ago, I headed off to a murder mystery free form game. If you’ve never been to one, it’s a ton of fun.  The basic theme is that everyone plays a role in a wider story arc.  This year’s theme was the American Old West.  There are various sundry folks like the crooked doctor with a gambling addition (me), the competing developers of the railroads, the crooked judge, the sheriff, and so forth.  As you start the game, you find out that somebody has been murdered (gasp!)!  Your character’s goal in the story is to attain certain assignments and the over-arching goal is to figure out who the killer is.  It takes about 2 and a half hours, and you stay in character the entire time.  It’s fun.

But onto my story about social engineering.

Earlier in the day, I was talking to a friend of mine over the phone.  He played a character known as Slick O’Hare.  Part of my character was that I did some research on Slick and discovered that he was a notorious thug from out west who’s real name was Saul Jackson.  Now, part of his character was that he wanted to keep that information a secret from everyone.  So, while we were speaking on the phone, he mentioned that he was playing the character of Slick.  Without really thinking about it, I said “Oh, you’re a thug!”  I knew this from my character sheet but didn’t know his said to keep that a secret.  I kind of blurted it out when I probably should have kept it to myself.

“What the?  How’d you find that out?  No one is supposed to know that!” he exclaimed.

In that instant, I realized that I may have made a mistake.  I decided that I had to recover quickly by thinking fast.  Now, this friend of mine knows that I am a magician and mentalist, and that I am good at deciphering body language.  I played off that fact.  “You just told me,” I said.  “It was a lucky guess.”

He “realized” that he had been had.  “Oh,” he groaned, “**** you and your lucky guesses!”  He knew just then that I had been fishing around for information and that I had, by chance, figured out an important part of back story that he was supposed to conceal.  “That’s unfair!”  It is unfair, I suppose, that I use some of my abilities to my advantages.

Later on, while driving both him and another friend to the party, we talked about it again.  He bemoaned the fact that I tricked him into revealing information.  But on the way home, I explained what really went down.  “So, remember earlier when I tricked you into revealing that information about yourself being a thug from back west?”

“Yes?” he responded.

“It turns out,” I explained, “that I already knew that information.  What actually happened is that I tricked you into thinking that I tricked you into telling me.”

“Argh!” he exclaimed, realizing that he had been had a second time.  “I can’t believe you did that… again!”  The fact is that I recovered quickly from my earlier error and utilized my own reputation to my advantage to misdirect away from my error.  I think that’s pretty clever.  And I socially engineered him into believing that the error was his, not mine. 

But, he still trusts me.