The New Hazard of Social Engineering
I spent my formative years using pen or pencil or at the most a Remington typewriter to express my thoughts or write the hardcopy of a soft speech. Then came the era of computers and mobiles and these hard made wares were brilliantly utilized to invent softer wares for social media platforms and digitally monitored applications, simply called Apps. Writing world went topsy-turvy; pencils became bookmarks of old diaries wherein the washer-man account is kept and the pen was relegated to signing cheques only, while Remington can no longer be found even in ‘Chor-bazaars’. It took some time for the ldies to somehow manage these new-age instruments (Or are they called tools? Anyway, how do names matter? Creed matters more, which in this case is either Gadget or Gizmo)
So far it was so good, though Gen-Next thought it was awesome. But then Information was bifurcated into Fact and Fiction, oops in the new jargon it is called Fake, and to make it even more diabolical, we also came to know that Technology could be used for good, bad and ugly purposes by similar kind of people. The good part was like opening and operating a bank account; bad was someone else siphoning it off and the ugly is the topic of this report. But we will come to this ugly thing a little later. For now the Gen-Present has to virtually get the hang of what is actually VIRTUAL because the good old guys are routinely subjected to virtual meetings, virtual games, virtual ceremonies and even virtual verbosity. And to beat it all, these virtual Apps can be virtually hacked. It needs to be clarified here that this type of hacking is not done by good old-fashioned axe but it is sort of squeezing through closed doors like a virtual spirit. This spirited trick was possible due to the fact that the entire ‘hamam’ was virtual, and the spirits, like humans, are too good and too bad, too. So we have good hackers like the CBI guys and the bad hackers who play the fool with EVMs. But this started sounding not only tacky but too vague, so a new terminology was coined, which is actually quite ancient (I guess they ran out of words). If you have any doubts, have a look at the full names of Mister Ethical Hacker and Mister Unethical Hacker. The good thing is that Ethical Hacker is an expert but the alarming thing is that Unethical Hacker is a virtuoso and that is proving to be problematic for those who don’t know the hang of hacking or the con of cloning.
Coming back to the ugly report that I happened to come across a couple of days back relates to misuse of technology in a massive way to control an entire society or even an entire population through what is called as social engineering. Some of you could be well aware of it, but for me it was new, disquieting and interesting, so the more I delved into this subject the more I found recent events and developments falling in place. Do observe how very big state players engage big players who have the paraphernalia to utilise their social engineering machinery to control a huge mass of people in four ways:
- Very big players combine with big players to cultivate a culture of fear to gain people’s consent to wage war or any other aggressive action.
- Intimidating the public or a certain section of the public through continuous stress so that they accede to them in order to survive. This is termed as Stockholm syndrome or submission to usurpation of civil liberty.
- Distract the public from easily accessing important information by non-stop relay of non-issues like conduct or lifestyle of celebrities or exploiting man-made tragedies or natural disasters. Both methods are employed to impose the will of the very big players.
- Divide and conquer – Use media to create two narratives for every major political and social issue to keep the people busy fighting each other. The debates on TV are for this purpose and the paradigm of that is set by the media and not the viewers.
Meanwhile nothing meaningful happens which means the very big player continues to control.
Although social engineering is now a worldwide methodology, in India we can connect many recent events to this controlling technique – sustained targeting of jamaatis, the fluctuating govt. stand on NRC, riots, threats and hate-crimes, Sushant Singh Rajput suicide case followed by Kangana-Rhea-Raut debate, call for clapping and clanging in midst of a pandemic, race for producing vaccine for Covid 19 virus and biased stand of FB India towards hate mongering are some of the outstanding happenings which come to mind where one or more of the above methods were employed to control the mind of the public. Possibly social engineering was probably employed some years back in a more discreet manner to create diehard supporters while the others were napping.
The questions that now arise is who or what determines ethical and unethical standards? Has not the discerning wall between the two become wafer thin because the determining norms have been manipulated as per convenience and thence indiscriminately used for monetary and/or political gains? There is no doubting that technology has made it possible to make great strides in healthcare, infrastructure, space exploration, access to knowledge and rapid communication, but at the same time it has also created its own variety of demons along the way, and social engineering is the most damaging of them so far. The magnitude of the possibilities that this demon can inflict is enormous. Have not a great number of people already been emotionally or mentally controlled in various parts of the world? Have we too become robotic enough to readily accept social engineering as an inevitable part of life or are we, the Gen-Present, willing to put up a long and hard fight to resist the systematic erosion of civil liberties? They, the very big players, virtually hate civil liberties because these are impediments in controlling the masses beneficially. And we are the last few of that generation who have seen both sides of the coin and thus know where the drawing lines lies. So we must resist because nobody else would or even realise the great danger of illusion of making life easy through deception.
The open letter issued to Mark Zuckerberg by Shibu Thomas should not be the closing chapter of a bold movement; it should continue in some or the other form till the big players mend their ways and then the bigger ones are left without a tool or did I say instrumental accomplice?