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Humans are the weakest link

Lisa Kelly
Convicted hacker turned security consultant Kevin Mitnick releases his book The Art of Deception next month in which he shows how social engineering is the biggest risk to computer security.

Mitnick served five years in a US prison for cracking corporate systems, including those of Novell, Nokia and Sun Microsystems, and was also accused of hacking into the heart of the US government, including the Pentagon and the North American Aerospace Defence Command, in turn inspiring the film Wargames.

Considering his parole conditions prevent him from using computers and the Internet, gaining special permission to write the book on his laptop was an essential first step in getting the book published.

According to Mitnick, the greatest security risk of all is human nature. The book presents fictional scenarios of successful cons, swindles and attacks on businesses and government organisations by hackers.

He writes: "As developers invent continually better security technologies, making it increasingly difficult to exploit technical vulnerabilities, attackers will turn more and more to exploiting the human element. Cracking the human firewall is often easy, requires no investment beyond the cost of a telephone call, and involves minimal risk."

Mitnick believes people are vulnerable because "we're not trained to be suspicious of each other".

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