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A Serious Game for Eliciting Social Engineering Security Requirements


Abstract and Figures

Social engineering is the acquisition of information about computer systems by methods that deeply include non- technical means. While technical security of most critical systems is high, the systems remain vulnerable to attacks from social engineers. Social engineering is a technique that: (i) does not require any (advanced) technical tools, (ii) can be used by anyone, (iii) is cheap. Traditional security requirements elicitation approaches often focus on vulnerabilities in network or software systems. Few approaches even consider the exploitation of humans via social engineering and none of them elicits personal behaviours of indi- vidual employees. While the amount of social engineering attacks and the damage they cause rise every year, the security awareness of these attacks and their consideration during requirements elicitation remains negligible. We propose to use a card game to elicit these requirements, which all employees of a company can play to understand the threat and document security requirements. The game considers the individual context of a company and presents underlying principles of human behaviour that social engineers exploit, as well as concrete attack patterns. We evaluated our approach with several groups of researchers, IT administrators, and professionals from industry.
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A Serious Game for Eliciting Social Engineering
Security Requirements
Kristian Beckers
Technische Universit¨
at M¨
Sebastian Pape
Goethe-University Frankfurt
Index Terms—security requirements elicitation, requirements
prioritisation, threat analysis, gamification
Abstract—Social engineering is the acquisition of information
about computer systems by methods that deeply include non-
technical means. While technical security of most critical systems
is high, the systems remain vulnerable to attacks from social
engineers. Social engineering is a technique that: (i) does not
require any (advanced) technical tools, (ii) can be used by anyone,
(iii) is cheap.
Traditional security requirements elicitation approaches often
focus on vulnerabilities in network or software systems. Few
approaches even consider the exploitation of humans via social
engineering and none of them elicits personal behaviours of indi-
vidual employees. While the amount of social engineering attacks
and the damage they cause rise every year, the security awareness
of these attacks and their consideration during requirements
elicitation remains negligible.
We propose to use a card game to elicit these requirements,
which all employees of a company can play to understand the
threat and document security requirements. The game considers
the individual context of a company and presents underlying
principles of human behaviour that social engineers exploit, as
well as concrete attack patterns. We evaluated our approach
with several groups of researchers, IT administrators, and
professionals from industry.
“The biggest threat to the security of a company is not
a computer virus, an unpatched hole in a key program or a
badly installed firewall. In fact, the biggest threat could be
you [...] What I found personally to be true was that it’s
easier to manipulate people rather than technology [...] Most of
the time organizations overlook that human element.1These
words from Kevin Mitnick spoken in a BBC interview were
made over a decade ago and are still of utmost importance
today. A Dimensional Research study2with 853 IT profession-
als from United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia,
New Zealand, and Germany about social engineering in 2011
confirmed Mitnick’s statement. It revealed that 48% of large
companies and 32% of small companies fell victim to 25 or
more social engineering attacks in the past two years. The
average cost per incident was over $25 000. 30% of large
companies even cited a per incident cost of over $100000.
2 of-social- engineering-on-
The SANS institute released a white paper3with even more
severe numbers about social engineering. It states that cyber
attacks cost U.S. companies $266 million every year and that
80% of all attacks are caused by authorized users. These users
are either disgruntled employees or non-employees that have
established trust within a company.
Eliciting security requirements for human threats is essential
to consider the right defense mechanisms for concerns of
socio-technical systems (STS). This elicitation is difficult
for security engineers, because these are trained to focus
mainly on other aspects of STS such as business processes,
software applications, and hardware components. Additionally,
external security engineers would have to gather relevant
domain knowledge to understand the company, e.g. learn about
processes, policies, employees’ capabilities and attitudes. A
common theme in security requirements engineering is model-
ing aspects of STS. For example, Lamsweerde [1] investigates
security requirements for software, Mouratidis [2] and Liu
[3] analyze organizational security issues, and Herrmann [4]
focuses on business processes. The work of Li [5] considers all
aspects of STS in one holistic model. These approaches have in
common that they often assume the security requirements are
known by the stakeholders and have only to be made explicit
via modeling. This leads to a gap in the security analysis if
the stakeholders are not aware of social engineering threats.
Some approaches use patterns to identify threats [6], [7], which
is generally a good idea, but for social engineering difficult,
since the personality traits of individual persons such as writes
passwords on post-it notes have to be known and described in
a model. That is currently not done in security requirements
Several approaches focus on the elicitation of security
requirements in different ways. Houmb [8] uses the Common
Criteria as a basis for identifying security concerns in software
documentation, Herrmann [9] relies on business risks for
eliciting security requirements. These approaches build on
existing software and business documentation as a source for
security requirements, which does not focus on the behavior
of humans in a company that might be exploited by a software
engineer. Several works propose to use brainstorming as a
social-engineering- defense-1232
source for security requirements, e.g., Ionita [10]. These may
result in social engineering security requirements, but again
only if the stakeholders come up with the idea of social
engineering, which requires them to know about it beforehand.
Recently, serious games have built reputation for getting
employees of companies involved in security activities in an
enjoyable and sustainable way. While still preserving a playful
character, serious games are designed for a primary purpose
other than pure entertainment, e.g. education, awareness train-
ing, social change. Williams et al. [11], [12] introduced the
protection poker game to prioritize risks in software engi-
neering projects. Shostack [13], [14] from Microsoft presented
his Elevation of Privileges (EoP) card game to practice threat
analysis with software engineers. We believe a serious game is
relevant for social engineering, as well. Furthermore, games
are used as part of security awareness campaigns [15]. For
example, Denning [16], [17] provides with Control-Alt-Hack
a game to raise security awareness by letting players become
white hat hackers. Control-Alt-Hack does not focus on threat
analysis or security requirements elicitation, but rather places
emphasis on awareness. Therefore, it is set in a fictional
scenario. In addition, the players use attacks that are predefined
on the cards and do not need to elicit attacks on their own.
The reason is the aim of awareness, which limits the game
to increasing its players’ knowledge about the existence and
potential harm of hacking attacks.
We believe that there is a major benefit from eliciting
security requirements using employees of a company in such a
game for social engineering. In contrast to security engineers,
common employers have the benefit of knowing their daily
routine well. Namely, they are aware of business processes
and their contexts, and especially deviations from provisions.
Additionally, they know about their (and their co-workers’) se-
curity knowledge, attitudes towards security rules and policies,
and past behavior. In short, the employees are unconsciously
aware of the human vulnerabilities in a company.
We propose to use a game (see Figs. 1 and 2) to make
these threats explicit, which lets them play the role of a
social engineering attacker. The game provides the required
information about human behavior patterns such as the herd
principle (if everyone is doing it, I do it as well) and attack
scenarios that social engineers use such as phishing.
In order to provide the validity of these principles and attack
scenarios, we took all of them from scientific publications. The
game enables employees to learn about social engineering,
while practicing immediately. This immediate application of
learned knowledge has proven to have lasting effects [18].
The game works as follows. Employees propose social
engineering threats and the other players rate their validity
based on their knowledge of the context, e.g. employee Anton
would fall for a phishing mail only if he is under time pressure
for a deadline. This leads to a ranking of the proposed threats.
Afterwards the threats are the basis for security requirements
that shall prevent them.
Currently companies focus on two options for addressing
the social engineering problem.
Figure 1: The Cards of our Game
Firstly, companies can conduct security awareness trainings
in which employees are told about the threat of social engi-
neering. These trainings are often mandatory for employees
and don’t have a lasting effect4. As a cheaper variant, security
awareness campaigns try to achieve the same goal, but face
the same problems than trainings. In general, they are not well
adapted to the employees’ weaknesses.
Secondly, companies hire penetration testing companies that
attack their clients and show weaknesses.These kind of pene-
trations tests are rarely done, because they come with a number
of problems, e.g. a lot of effort needs to be invested beforehand
to address legal issues [19]. At best, when those penetration
tests are conducted, the tester finds flaws and companies can
educate the affected employees. However, experiments have
shown that these approaches are difficult, because humans are
easily demotivated when confronted with the results [20].
We propose to solve this issue by playing our serious game
for social engineering threat analysis. Our target audience
consists of all employees of a company, security aware IT
administrators and security engineers, as well as secretaries or
sales persons. The reason why we even want security aware
employees to play is, that these usually focus on technical
threats and have currently little to no support for eliciting
social engineering support.
The remainder of our paper is organized as follows. Sec-
tion II reports on the goals of our project. Section III provides
an overview of serious games in particular with regards to
security and security requirements engineering approaches.
Section IV describes the game and its design process. Sect. V
reports on our evaluation of the game and shows resulting
threats and security requirements. Section VI concludes and
provides directions for future work.
A. Goals
As motivated by Sect. I our main goal is to provide
structured means to elicit and prioritize social engineering
security requirements. This includes:
4 content/uploads/2010/12/Beyond-
Awareness-Training-Its-Time-to- Change-the-Culture- Stahl-0504.pdf
Figure 2: Our Serious Game for Social Engineering
Considering a context specific to a company that shall
be protected, which means considering personal traits
of its employees, weaknesses in its processes, and lack
of awareness or even misguided security attitudes and
policies. If we do not provide essential support for
context-specific threats the players run the risk to come
up with generic and meaningless threats. This would be
fine for raising awareness, but not for threat elicitation.
Basing our game on existing research, which has been
thoroughly evaluated by international researchers in the
field of social engineering. We wanted to avoid bias by
making up social engineering elements (behaviors and
attack scenarios) by ourselves or external consultants and
missing relevant fundamental elements.
Keeping our game simple allows the players to focus on
the threat analysis and spend as little effort as possible
on learning and following the game’s rules. This allows
them to focus most of their cognitive powers on eliciting
the threats.
Making the game entertaining is of utmost importance.
According to Klimmt [21, p. 256f] enjoyment during
the game generates attention and interest. An external
security engineer would need to understand the com-
pany (processes, policies, employees’ capabilities and
attitudes) and get domain knowledge in order to elicit
threats. We believe it is easier and more cost-effective
to train the people that know the context of their work
really well in threat analysis. The highest danger of the
participation of non security experts is the looking out
of the window5effect, which describes the participants’
boredom leads them to stop participating and spend their
time looking out the window and thinking of other topics.
Our aim is to avoid this effect by engaging the players
in an enjoyable experience.
5This effect was introduced to the authors by Ketil Stølen.
B. Why a Game?
This section is mainly based on the argumentation of
Denning [16] for their security awareness game. We extended
Denning’s argumentation with arguments from research on
serious games. As a result, we believe that a serious game
can fulfill our project goals. If designed properly, a serious
game can be an appropriate tool for supporting context-specific
threat analysis to different kinds of employees. In short:
Games can be fun, which gets employees involved.
Games provide a realm that encourages employees to be
creative and try new ways of thinking
Games are intended to be engaging and entertaining,
which gets employees to play again and again.
A game provides a realistic scenario, but the players do
not need to fear consequences, because “playful action
[...] is intentionally limited to a situational frame that
blocks out further consequences of action results.”(cf.
Klimmt [21, p. 253]) Klimmt points out, that direct con-
sequences are a reduction of complexity, because players
do not even need to think about consequences. Another
consequence is the accessibility of imagined contexts and
activities; fantasy allows role-play in contexts that would
not be feasible, appropriate or desirable otherwise. This
mind-set exactly matches our aim to make players think
like an attacker.
We could have designed this game as a computer game.
Both formats have their benefits and limitations. We decided
to design a physical tabletop game mainly, because the social
setting of the game involves the physical presence of potential
victims and the players are reminded of their vulnerabilities
while playing. These victims or people that know them well
can participate in the discussions about threats and may be
reminded of their actual behavior by their presence. Further-
more, Denning’s reasons apply in our case, as well.
Physical games may be attractive to people who dislike
computer games.
Physical games require no hardware or digital resources,
except for a table.
Physical games allow to browse its components such as
principles without playing.
C. Target Audience
When designing the game, we had to consider the trade-off
between designing a very general and generic game and one
specific for a certain target group. While a game appealing to
as many people as possible may be broadly applicable, a more
targeted version may benefit from domain knowledge and may
be more helpful for the players. We decided to target the
middle and design a game for employees without consideration
of properties specific for certain industrial sectors.
a) Primary Audience: Our game addresses company
employees that work with computers and information assets.
In particular, we want to engage security engineers and IT
administrators in social engineering threat analysis. We claim
that these have initial security knowledge which makes it
easier for them to get introduced to the topic. On the other
hand the human engagement necessary when dealing with
social engineering is fairly new to many of these population
and our game shall help with this task.
b) Secondary Audience: Persons in a company that work
with information assets are the entire Administration staff. We
welcome their engagement in the game in order to be moti-
vated and encouraged to tackle social engineering. Ideally we
mix this second audience with the first, so that knowledgeable
security people can explain security concepts and procedures
during the discussions of the game.
In the future, we plan to provide introductionary material
and further examples to make the game appealing to a broader
We are not aware of a serious game for social engineering to
elicit security requirements. We report on the following works
relating to serious games in software planning and security
Serious games have demonstrated a significant potential
in industrial education and training disciplines [22], [23],
[24], given that organizations care for players’ privacy and
working atmosphere and especially do not use gaming data
for appraisal or selection purposes, and clearly communicate
this to employees [?].
In particular, games for IT security preparedness in the
electricity industry in Norway [25] have helped to determine
the right composition of response teams in terms of compe-
tencies. These exercises have the potential to optimize current
emergency practices and they offer the possibility to evaluate
new practices in a realistic setting.
The planning poker game [26], [27] provides a collaborative
method for estimating efforts for software engineering. The
players take turns to estimate the efforts of a task in the first
round, discuss the reasoning for their estimations and estimate
again in a second round. The results are well agreed upon
resource estimates. The variant of planning poker for software
security called protection poker [11], [12] provides a way for
understanding and prioritizing risks. The game lets software
engineers estimate the value of assets and the potential damage
of threats towards these assets. The players suggest and discuss
estimates for these values similar to planning poker. Finally
the players quantify the risk for each asset and threat pair by
multiplying their values. These pairs are placed in descending
order by their risk values, which results in a prioritized list of
risks. The game has also the benefit that software engineers
have a simple way to discuss and learn about security concerns
and measures. The authors found reasonable indication for this
statement based on their empirical evaluations with academics
[11] and practitioners [12]. In contrast to our work, this game
does not use cards, but estimates on paper or boards and does
not focus on social engineering. In the future, we can combine
our games as follows. Our threats can be input for protection
poker, which adds risk assessment to our threats.
Shostack [13], [14] argues as well that teaching software
engineers about security is more favorable than using security
engineers to conduct the threat analysis, because security
engineers have to invest a lot of time to understand the work
of the software engineers. This understanding is essential to
discover vulnerabilities. In contrast, software engineers are
more familiar with possible vulnerabilities of their systems,
if they are taught about threat analysis. Thus, the author
developed a card game called Elevation of Privileges. In
contrast to the games described before it is a physical card
game6. Each player draws several threats. In turns, the players
then explain how these threats could manifest with regard to
the software they are currently engineering. If a player can
convince the other players that her threat is worth a bug
investigation, a request for an additional feature or even a
design change, she gets a point. The player with the most
points by the end of the game wins. In contrast to our work,
Shostack focuses on software security and software engineers
as a target audience, while our game is for any kind of
employees that work with information assets.
Games are also effective in security awareness campaigns
[15], which aim to make people aware of IT security threats.
The serious game Control-Alt-Hack from Denning [16], [17]
is a tabletop game that lets players take the role of managers of
a security penetration testing company. The company attacks
its customers with their consent and the player that achieves
the most successful attacks and earns subsequently the most
money wins. The success of the attacks is decided by a roll
of the dice. The players learn about existing attacks and the
damage they can cause within the fictional setting. In contrast
to our work, the game has a focus on awareness, and therefore
no context-specific threats are elicited or security requirements
The security cards7is a deck of cards that contains cards
of the types impact on humans, adversary motives, adversary
resources, and adversary methods. The aim of this game is to
brainstorm about threats. In contrast to our work these cards
do not come with a clear set of rules and are not based on
literature, but are more vague. For example, an adversary’s
method is processes and asks the players to come up with a
bureaucratic process for an attack. This level of abstraction
provides less guidance than our card games.
Further available games are [d0x3d!]8a tabletop game
designed to raise awareness to network security terminology
and attacker models. The card game Exploit!9is an entertain-
ment game for security engineers. OWASP Cornucopia10 trains
threat modeling and risk assessment for software applications.
However, none of these games addresses social engineering
threat elicitation with employees.
6The Elevation of Privileges (EoP) Card Game:
7The security cards:
8The [d0x3d!] game:
9Core Impact: Exploit!
10Cornucopia Cornucopia
Capture-the-Flag11 games make the players compete in
simulated security attacks. These have been extended to the
realm of social engineering12. These competitions select social
engineers that attack existing companies, but these are not em-
ployees of these companies and limit themselves to telephone
based attacks. The companies are informed of the results, but
these often do not volunteer to be attacked and as unwilling
participants the positive impact these studies can have seem
rather limited. In any case, Social Engineering Capture the
Flag are more a kind of social penetration testing than threat
elicitation. From the companies’ perspective, they therefore
come with the problems already mentioned in Sect. I.
We could not identify a game that provides structured
context-specific threat analysis, is based on existing research,
is simple and engaging (see Sect. III). Thus, we decided to
create our own game mechanics and improved them over a
number of feedback rounds. Our game on social engineering
consists of three sections: Preparation the game considering
the players’ context, Playing the game and eliciting threats
and Debriefing the players including prioritizing threats. Each
of the sections may consist of several phases. In this Section,
we present the game rules along with our design rationales.
Section 1: Preparation
1. Create an Overview Plan Provide an overview plan of
the department by using the fire escape plan. This plan has
to be augmented with the assets of the company, the people
working in that department, and their locations, as well as
communication channels e.g. VoIP, Email, etc (cf. Fig. 3). All
players should be involved in the creation or have to check
the plan for completeness.
Reasoning: We base this step on the fire escape plan of
the department, because it is easily available since it often
is publicly hung out to show escape routes. Additionally, the
plan shows fire-extinguishers, fire alarm buttons, and escape
ways, which may be used by the players in an attack. Lastly,
the natural consequence of the players checking it for flaws
is that they are familiar with it at the beginning of the game
and further discussion in the game is focused on the attacks
and not the setup.
Figure 3: Overview Plan
11Capture the Flag:
12Social Engineering CTF:
Section 2: Playing
In the Playing section, the players take the role of the
attacker. It consists of the following phases:
1. Draw Human Behavioral Pattern Card Each player
draws a card from the deck of human behavioral patterns
(principles). Users behaving according to one of the principles
can be exploited by social engineers. One example for the
patterns is the so-called Need and Greed principle that states
“Your needs and desires make you vulnerable. Once hustlers
know what you really want, they can easily manipulate you.
”A sample card is shown in Fig. 4.
Reasoning: The human behavioral patterns are based on
the work of Stajano and Wilson [28], who describe why
attacks on scam victims may succeed. We extended the set
of behavioral patterns13 by patterns found in work on social
engineering from Gulati [29] and Peltier [30].
Social Engineering
The Distraction
While you distract your victims
by whatever retains their interests,
you can do anything to them.
Social Engineering
Attack Scenarios
Dumpster Diving
Dumpster Diving is the act of
analysing the documents and other
things in a garbage bin of an
organisation to reveal sensitive
information. 1
Social Engineering
Outside Attacker
An outsider is new to the
organization and has to establish
trust to its employees.
Social Engineering
The Distraction
While you distract your victims
by whatever retains their interests,
you can do anything to them.
Social Engineering
Attack Scenarios
Dumpster Diving
Dumpster Diving is the act of
analysing the documents and other
things in a garbage bin of an
organisation to reveal sensitive
information. 1
Social Engineering
Outside Attacker
An outsider is new to the
organization and has to establish
trust to its employees.
Figure 4: Principle (Left), Attack Technique (Right)
2. Draw Attack Scenario Cards The next step is that
each player draws three cards from the deck of the social
engineering attack techniques (scenarios). For example, re-
verse social engineering comprises creating a problem for the
selected person and solving it for him. The gained trust is used
to ask the victim for a favor. A sample card is shown in Fig. 4.
Reasoning: The used attack techniques are mostly based
on the work of Krombholz et al. [31]. We also extended the set
of attack techniques14 adapted from the work of Gulati [29],
Peltier [30], and Chitrey et al. [32]. Since most attacks are only
related to a subset of the behavioral patterns in an appropriate
manner, we allow the players to take three cards.
3. Choose Attacker Type Each player gets one attacker
type card. The card has two sides shown in Fig. 5. One
for an inside attacker, who is a well known member of the
organization. And one for an outside attacker, who is unknown
to the members of the organization.
13A full list of all human behavioral patterns along with the corresponding
reference may be retrieved on
14A full list of all attack techniques along with the corresponding reference
may be retrieved on
Reasoning: Insiders have already established trust in the
organizations, which leads to an easier starting point for an
attack. Outsiders have to establish trust in the organization
first before conducting the attack. The players should think
about what kind of attacker they are and plan their attack
accordingly. For example, an insider might need to cover his
tracks more carefully or pass the buck to co-workers while an
outsider has to provide a reason for being in the building.
Social Engineering
Attacker Type
Inside Attacker
An insider is a known member of
the organization who has already
established trust.
Social Engineering
Attacker Type
Outside Attacker
An outsider is new to the
organization and has to establish
trust to its employees.
Social Engineering
Attacker Type
Inside Attacker
An insider is a known member of
the organization who has already
established trust.
Social Engineering
Attacker Type
Outside Attacker
An outsider is new to the
organization and has to establish
trust to its employees.
Figure 5: Attacker Card (Front- and Backside)
4. Brainstorming In the brainstorming phase the players
take the role of the attacker. Each player thinks of how to
conduct one of the three attacks to exploit the behavioral
pattern of an employee. The exploit targets one person in the
overview diagram and an asset. Moreover, the player has to
choose if she is an insider or outsider of the organization.
The players get five minutes to think about and elaborate their
Reasoning: We experimented with different time frames
for the brainstorming in feedback sessions and discovered in
4 sessions (n=3,n=2,n=4,n=4) that players need on average
between 4 to 5 minutes to elicit a threat. A too short time
frame showed to annoy the players while too much time got
them easily distracted.
Rounds of the game: Each player proposes an attack in the
fashion explained below. This iterates until all persons iterated
at least twice. We denote a turn as one player presenting an
attack along with the discussion and getting points. A round
consists of turns of all players. After each round, the players
restock their cards. The brainstorming phase in the iterations
may be shortened as needed by the players.
5. Attack The active player presents his attack to the
group. Each attack consists of a principle, an attack scenario,
an attacker, a victim, a communication channel and a targeted
asset (c.f. Tab. I). Note that once a player has proposed an
attack it is finalized and cannot be changed anymore by the
Reasoning: The players should finalize their attack, be-
cause otherwise the players could always adapt their attack to
address any concerns that may arise and gain full points. While
this has still lead to lively discussions, it showed that players
were dissatisfied because the awarding of points did not reflect
the players effort. As discussed in Sect. II-B it is important to
retain the playful character of the players’ actions.
6. Discussion The discussion starts with a feasibility
reasoning of the proposed threat. The players discuss first,
if the attack is feasible, in which case the player gets 2 points.
If the player received help when describing the attack or the
attack is plausible, but infeasible (e.g. because the attacked
person has a special training to resists the described attack),
the player gets 1 point. If the proposed attack is not plausible
the turn ends immediately and the player gets no points.
In case the player received more than one point, a com-
pliance discussion follows. Principle: If the attack described
by the player is a perfect match, the player gets 2 points, if
it matches only somehow, he gets 1 point. Scenario: If the
attack described matches the presented attack technique card,
the player scores 1 point. Attacker: Finally, the players discuss
if the inside attacker (1 point) and outside attackers (2 points)
card matches the attacker type in the proposed threat.
Reasoning: We first want to establish if the attack is
intuitively working in the minds of the players or if reasonable
doubts exist. If the doubts are so strong that no players believes
this attack can work we have a punishment installed in the
game (0 points and end of turn). Afterwards, we would like
to reward the players to think about the behaviors and attack
scenarios on their cards, as well as the different approaches
of inside and outside attackers.
7. Improvements In addition, the other players can also
propose improved versions of an attack and gain 2 points for a
major improvement or 1 point for a minor improvement. The
points are granted by the other players.
Reasoning: We want to get the other players variations
of the threat in order to explore their variations. Any missing
threat during a security analysis presents a risk that is not
considered and subsequently not protected against.
Section 3: Debriefing
In the debriefing phase, the players reflect their attacks.
They may be supported by the company’s security personnel.
Prioritize Threats We propose the following activities: (1)
identify the most relevant threats of social engineers in your
organization (e.g. based on likelihood to succeed and damage
they potentially cause), (2) try to figure out why some people
were attacked more often and (maybe) others not at all, (3)
analyze why some communication channels were used more
often than others, and (4) determine which assets were attacked
more often than others.
Reasoning We aim to foster discussions about how severe
social engineering attacks can be for an organization and find
out which are the main security concerns for social engineering
Document Security Requirements We use a similar
approach than Misuse Cases [33] to map threats to security
requirements that specify the underlying security problem.
Reasoning We want this step to be simple and based
on some well established work. The misuse case fulfills that
A. Sampling
We evaluated the game in practical experiments at the
University Frankfurt and the Technical University Munich.
We played the game with 27 players that are full time
employed and 3 senior researchers have participated in the
game in the role of a game master. The distribution of the
players is the following (see Fig. 6): 5 players are employed
at the University Frankfurt, 19 at the Technical University
Munich and 1 is employed at a telecommunications company.
Among the players were 2 senior researchers, 19 researchers,
4 members of the IT administration staff, 1 secretary and
1 professor. In particular, the players held masters’ degrees
in computer science (18), business information systems (4),
economics (1), and IT security (1). In addition, 3 players
have a PhD in computer science, while 4 players do not
have academic degrees (see Fig. 7). We did not use students
in our evaluations, but scientific employees and members of
the administrative staff. The reason for this is that the target
audience of the game consists of company employees and we
identified a sample set that reflects our target audience.
Senior' Researc her;'2;'7%
Administra tor;'4;'
Figure 6: Player’s Professions
B. Operation
We played the game in 7 individual sessions with 3 to 4
players and 1 game master in each round. In total, 49 turns of
the game were played and 17 hours of playing time. Note that
the time of playing the game varied depending on the length
of the discussions of the feasibility of a proposed attack.
For the first two sessions we introduced social engineering
and the rules of the game in a 15 minute presentation.
Afterwards, we decided to shorten the introduction in order to
get the players involved with the game sooner. Hence, sessions
3 to 7 are just introduced with a 5 minute introduction. We
Master 'Economic s;'1;'4%
Master 'Computer'
Master 'IT'Sec urity;'
Figure 7: Player’s Academic Degrees
devised a handout15. for the players in order to gain easy
access to the rules at any time and handed it to them before
starting a round. We played the game in a closed room so
the players would not be distracted by any outside influence.
Some of the players mentioned that our instructions on an A4
paper are too long for reading while playing. Therefore, we
also provided a short version of the rules.
The game masters initiated the game with issuing the cards
and just motivated the participants to elicit and discuss social
engineering threats. They ensured that everyone’s opinion is
heard. The game masters did not voice any opinions during the
discussions, they just documented the choices regarding points
of the participants. Afterwards the game masters conducted
the debriefing of the players of the game. The results of the
debriefing is reported as part of the data analysis (c.f. Tab. I).
C. Data Analysis
We present the resulting statistics of the game in the
following. We played 49 turns of the game resulting in 33
plausible attacks, 9 feasible attacks, and 7 non feasible attacks
(see Fig. 8). Hence, the majority of the elicited attacks were
plausible. Note that the following statistics focus only on
the 42 plausible and feasible attacks. We exclude the non
feasible attacks for the following analysis. We categorized
the victims attacked in our threats to the following types:
secretary, employee, and IT administrator (see Fig. 9). Our
analysis revealed that employees are the most often attacked
victims. We assumed before playing the game that this would
be the secretaries, because they are assumed to be the weakest
spot. The reason for this is that they have the least amount
of university education and the most contact with people.
Moreover, they are doorkeepers of the department heads and
15The handout is available at:
Table I: Social Engineering Threats Elicited during our Evaluation
Nr. Context Knowledge Attack Asset Principle Attack
1 Tim is seeking for attention and likes to be
admired for his achievements.
A member of an intranet security discussion board invites Tim
to participate in an honorary event and asks the Tim to log in
with his credentials to the intranet side using a specific link.
Credentials Distraction Waterholing
2 Jim flies to the United States from Germany
with Lufthansa and they just announced a strike.
Jim is watching his email closely to get any
information about delays quick and deal with
The attacker fakes a Lufthansa email with an updated travel
itinerary and attaches some malware to this email. The malware
would gain him access to the Jim’s PC and all digital assets on
Time Pres-
3 Bob is using Yahoo Mail, which forces him to
re-enter his credentials after 2 weeks continu-
ously being logged in.
Bob proposes to attack himself using the outlined weakness in
Yahoo Mail. If an attacker would fake the popup, he would
probably (re-)enter his credentials
Email Data Ignorance
and Care-
Popup Win-
4 Steve always leaves his office door and com-
puter unlocked. The cleaning guy is quite dom-
inant when cleaning the rooms.
An attacker can just enter his office pretending to be a (new)
cleaning guy, so he can just enter and send an email using his
computer and open an attachment with a Trojan.
Laziness Support
5 Robert’s family is about to arrive in the city
to celebrate his PhD submission. He also is
printing his Phd-thesis at the moment. Robert
gets a call from his family who arrives by train.
The attacker would be around and offer him to finish copying
his dissertation. Due to Robert’s stress with his dissertation and
family arriving he would welcome help. The attacker would
then steal data from his dissertation.
Dissertation Trust Prin-
Direct Ap-
6 Claudia is a new employee and worried about
her reputation. She is using the local WiFi
access and the company is communicating with
a chat tool.
The attacker would send her some links that turn out to be
pornography in the chat tool, after that the attacker will call
her and pretend to be a system administrator and pressure her
to reveal confidential information for not letting anybody know
about the pornography.
Trust Prin-
Direct Ap-
7 Bernhard needs a lot of computational power
to run experiments. He does not have sufficient
resources and a tight deadline to deliver results.
He just ordered more IT resources.
The attacker spoofs the email of the IT administration and sends
him an email pretending to be the administration. The email asks
to open an email attachment that contains a new form he has
to fill in if he wants to get the resources he previously ordered.
The attachment contains a malware.
PC data Need and
8 Jean has to work a lot with the financial ad-
ministration due to project billing issues for a
European research project she is working on.
The attacker pretends to be from the finance administration and
gain her credentials for the website the European Project is used
for billing. By telling that some issues need to be resolved and
proposing to take care of them for her she would gladly give
the attacker her credentials.
Credentials Guilt (No
Direct Ap-
9 Torben googles himself regularly to check his
reputation in the web.
The attacker prepares a site with information about him and
with exploits. The attackers would try to get it in the google
ranking and wait for him to google himself. If he checks the
results and notices the new page, he’ll browse it.
PC data Guilt (No
Direct Ap-
proach (No
10 Recently, there has been a bomb threat and
the administration asked everyone to leave the
building for “technical reasons”. Further infor-
mation was promised the next days.
Impersonate someone from the health department and claim that
all people have to leave the building due to recently discovered
asbestos or start a fake fire alarm to access the boss’s office for
a couple of minutes.
Data in Of-
Fear of the
Third Party
often hold a lot of access privileges. However, this assumption
turned out to be wrong. Moreover, we did not expect more
than 10% of the attacks directed towards the IT administration,
because these are supposedly the most well trained employees
with regard to social engineering. Furthermore, we present the
distribution of attacks towards employees in detail in Fig. 10
right. The blue employees are secretaries, the green ones are
administrators and the red ones are scientific employees. The
number following the name is the number of times that person
was attacked. All of the names are pseudonyms for real people.
The person that suffered the most attacks is Monja a secretary
with overall 8 attacks. In contrast, all other victims suffered
between 1 and 3 attacks.
The ratio between insider and outsider attackers is 22
outsider attacks to 20 insider attacks (see Fig. 8). We expected
a large ratio of insider attacks, because these are easier to elicit,
due to the fact that inside attackers have already established
trust. In particular, the players can attack as themselves.
However, the statistics show that these numbers are almost
even and we could not reveal a significant preference for either
attacker type.
Table II: From Threats to Requirements
Nr. Threat Security Requirement
1 A member of an intranet secu-
rity discussion board invites Tim
to participate in an honorary event
and asks the boss to log in with
his credentials to the intranet side
using a specific link.
A security awareness training has
to teach Tim and other employ-
ees to investigate links from un-
known sources, even when under
time pressure. These investigations
can be delegated, e.g., to the IT
security team.
We present an excerpt of the threats we elicited in our
evaluation in Tab. I and show the domain knowledge these
contain. The table outlines the drawn cards and targeted assets,
as well. Note that even if these attacks are plausible, in some
cases the players did not receive the points for principles or
attacks, because her attack did not match the received cards.
Figure 8: Attack Rating
Secre tary;)9;)
Administr ator;)
Figure 9: Victim Type
The final step of our approach is to formulate security
requirements based on these threats. We provide an exemplary
threat and requirement pair in Tab. II. The requirements shall
contain a constructive procedure to support the possible vic-
tims in evading the elicited threats. In the future, we will look
into how to do a reconciliation of multiple social engineering
security requirements to derive an entire awareness training
from it.
In addition, we deem it important that the employees un-
derstand that they will not be punished if they fell for a social
engineering attack, but limit the damage in informing the
security incident management team. The person that does this
debriefing has to ensure that employees understand that they
can resist this attack with proper training and motivate them
to do so. The understanding of the social engineering attacker
due to the precise attack presented should help employees to
gain confidence that they can adopt a resistance strategy.
Social engineering attacks are a significant problem for IT
security. Even for IT security professionals it is challenging
to elicit security requirements for social engineering threats.
Torb en;%2
Claude ;%2Assam;%1
Claudia ;%1
Steve ;%1
Christ oph;% 2
Figure 10: Victim Type Detail
Commonly, social engineering threat assessment involves pen-
etration testers that execute attacks on their customers and
report security requirements to them afterwards. This involves
the deception of people and a possible violation of their
privacy rights and provides only a small fraction of all attack
vectors. We propose an alternative to these techniques that
does not involve the lying to people, does not require external
security consultants, carries less risk of privacy violations, and
utilizes domain knowledge of the employees of these compa-
nies. These employees have due to their work experience in
the company the most relevant information to assess social
engineering vulnerabilities in themselves and their colleagues.
Our proposed solution utilizes a card game that employees
of a company play to elicit social engineering threats and
subsequent security requirements. These know the domain
well and learn about social engineering in a structured way
while playing the game. Security consultants are more familiar
with social engineering, but they have to learn about the
domain to elicit relevant context-specific threats. We argue that
employees can be taught this knowledge with our game and at
least contribute to the threat analysis and security requirements
elicitation effort.
Our main contributions are listed in the following:
Employees learn about different facets of social engineer-
ing acts e.g. how social engineering attacks are composed.
They learn by applying the knowledge when becoming
an attacker in the game. The learning and application
of social engineering while having fun playing creates
lasting knowledge on the subject.
The domain knowledge of the players and in particular
their observations during their daily work allows them to
elicit context-specific attacks.
The plausibility of the proposed attacks are rated by
the employees, again by applying valuable insights of
the domain in their argumentation. Hence, not plausible
attacks in this specific context are eliminated quickly. It
also leads to a prioritization of threats and their respective
security requirements into plausible attacks and only
feasible ones.
The employees are warned about threats they may face
in their daily lives and develop a sense of suspicion when
being attacked. Threats being elicited with our game have
domain specific information, which makes them realistic.
In the future, we are planning to create a context-
independent version of the game that can be used without
preparation in security awareness campaigns.
We thank all the players of our game that provided us with
invaluable feedback and spend their precious time with us
improving the game.
This research has been partially supported by the Federal
Ministry of Education and Research Germany (BMBF) via the
project SIDATE (grant number 16KIS0240) and the TUM Liv-
ing Lab Connected Mobility (TUM LLCM) project funded by
the Bayerisches Staatsministerium f¨
ur Wirtschaft und Medien,
Energie und Technologie (StMWi).
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IT security preparedness exercises allow for practical collaborative training, which in turn leads to improved response capabilities to information security incidents for an organization. However, such exercises are not commonly performed in the electric power industry. We have observed a tabletop exercise as performed by three organizations with the aim of understanding challenges of performing such exercises. We argue that challenges met during exercises could affect the response process during a real incident as well, and by improving the exercises the response capabilities would be strengthened accordingly. We found that the response team must be carefully selected to include the right competences and all parties that would be involved in a real incident response process, such as technical, managerial, and business responsible. Further, the main goal of the exercise needs to be well understood among the whole team and the facilitator needs to ensure a certain time pressure to increase the value of the exercise, and both the exercise and existing procedures need to be reviewed. Finally, there are many ways to conduct preparedness exercises. Therefore, organizations need to both optimize current exercise practices and experiment with new ones.
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Information Security Risk Assessment can be viewed as part of requirements engineering because it is used to translate security goals into security requirements, where security requirements are the desired system properties that mitigate threats to security goals. To improve the defensibility of these mitigations, several researchers have attempted to base risk assessment on argumentation structures. However, none of these approaches have so far been scalable or usable in real-world risk assessments. In this paper, we present the results from our search for a scalable argumentation-based information security RA method. We start from previous work on both formal argumentation frameworks and informal argument structuring and try to find a promising middle ground. An initial prototype using spreadsheets is validated and iteratively improved via several Case Studies. Challenges such as scalability, quantify-ability, ease of use, and relation to existing work in parallel fields are discussed. Finally, we explore the scope and applicability of our approach with regard to various classes of Information Systems while also drawing more general conclusions on the role of argumentation in security.
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The use of digital games and gamification has demonstrated potential to improve many aspects of how businesses provide training to staff, and communicate with consumers. However, there is still a need for better understanding of how the adoption of games and gasification would influence the process of decision-making in organisations across different industry. This article provides a structured review of existing literature on the use of games in the business environment, and seeks to consolidate findings to address research questions regarding their perception, proven efficacy, and identifies key areas for future work. The findings highlight that serious games can have positive and effective impacts in multiple areas of a business, including training, decision-support, and consumer outreach. They also emphasise the challenges and pitfalls of applying serious games and gamification principles within a business context, and discuss the implications of development and evaluation methodologies on the success of a game-based solution.
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Security has been a growing concern for most large organiza-tions, especially financial and government institutions, as security breaches in the socio-technical systems they depend on are costing billions. A major reason for these breaches is that socio-technical systems are designed in a piecemeal rather than a holistic fashion that leaves parts of a system vulnerable. To tackle this problem, we propose a three-layer security anal-ysis framework for socio-technical systems involving business processes, applications and physical infrastructure. In our proposal, global security requirements lead to local security requirements that cut across layers and upper-layer security analysis influences analysis at lower layers. More-over, we propose a set of analytical methods and a systematic process that together drive security requirements analysis throughout the three-layer framework. Our proposal supports analysts who are not security experts by defining transformation rules that guide the corresponding analysis. We use a smart grid example to illustrate our approach.
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Social engineering has become an emerging threat in virtual communities and is an effective means to attack information systems. Today's knowledge workers make use of a number of services that leverage sophisticated social engineering attacks. Moreover, there is a trend towards BYOD (bring your own device) policies and the usage of online communication and collaboration tools in private and business environments. In globally acting companies, teams are no longer geographically co-located but staffed just-in-time. The decrease in personal interaction combined with the plethora of tools used (E-Mail, IM, Skype, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Lync, etc.) create new attack vectors for social engineering attacks. Recent attacks on companies such as the New York Times, RSA, or Apple have shown that targeted spear-phishing attacks are an effective evolution of social engineering attacks. When combined with zero-day-exploits they become a dangerous weapon, often used by advanced persistent threats. This paper provides a taxonomy of well-known social engineering attacks as well as a comprehensive overview of advanced social engineering attacks on the knowledge worker.
Effective countermeasures depend on first understanding how users naturally fall victim to fraudsters.