A convention of computer hackers over the weekend in Las Vegas held a contest using a technique that proves once again that the weakest link in most security systems is the humans.

KYW’s John Ostapkovich reports
that the current term for techniques to trick others into giving up secret information is “social engineering.”  But professor Michael Littman, chairman of the computer science department at Rutgers University, says it’s as old as lying.

And Prof. Littman is aware of the contest:

“One of the things they had the hackers do is to find out what garbage company, say, BP uses when they throw things away.  Who carts away their garbage?”

…which with a little dumpster diving could provide a password or account number, the key to getting more secure information.

Contestants were to glean certain information from target companies — not using a computer, but often just the phone.  And Littman says the contest points out real weaknesses in most security:

“It does more than just show off because it provides public acknowledgement of this problem and how important it is.”

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