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Abstract

Internet crime, including fraud and spread of malicious software, is a pervasive and costly global issue. Many of these crimes occur not because of technology failure but because of the human element. People can easily be manipulated through social engineering – the use of psychological tactics to influence individuals to assist in their own victimization. We employ a social influence framework, drawing upon ideas from Robert Cialdini, to understand the nature of social engineering techniques and why they are successful in exploiting unsuspecting individuals. Specifically, we discuss how social engineers misuse six pervasive weapons of influence – Liking, Authority, Scarcity, Social Proof, Reciprocity, and Commitment and Consistency – in order to effectively influence individuals to take the initial steps toward their exploitation. We conclude with a discussion of the precautions individuals can take to resist malicious influence attempts online.