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Unmasking the Social Engineer: The Human Element of Security by Paul Ekman, Paul Kelly F., Christopher Hadnagy

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Chapter 5

The Science Behind the Face

If you want to know what someone is feeling you must watch for the temporary changes in the face.

—Dr. Paul Ekman, Unmasking the Face

Over the past 45 years, Dr. Ekman's research has helped the world realize how vital the face is in reading emotions, and numerous other researchers have carried this torch forward. The face is so important that this book's longest chapter is devoted to it.

This chapter doesn't merely reiterate existing research; rather, it takes that research into an area on which it hasn't yet focused: social engineering.

It's said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. If that is true, the face reflects your emotional content. In fact, Dr. Ekman notes that the face is the primary—and the clearest—channel of emotion. Learning to read and react to this emotional content, decide what tactic to use, and choose when to apply your own emotion will give you seemingly superhuman abilities.

In one engagement, I began by building rapport with my target. The conversation was going great, and elicitation was working. I wanted to take the vector, or plan of attack, one step further and really enter the guy's “tribe” by mirroring some of his emotions about his coworkers who had just left. I turned to him and said, “I'm sorry; I should have introduced myself. My name is Paul—Paul Williams.” I extended my hand. He shook it and answered, “It's okay; I'm just as rude. Greg Hurly.”

I continued, “Those two who just left, do you work with them?” ...

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