Social Engineer or Sociopath: Comparing Personality Traits

Have you ever watched a show called Dexter with Michael C. Hall? I mean really watched it! Try watching it again, but this time to specifically observe Dexter’s behavior evolve from season to season. He is learning to act / behave normally so he fits in better to society. Not all sociopaths are killers, some are executives, and some are your politicians.

Social engineers study people. Truly committed social engineers are better equated to actors and actresses rather than computer geeks. They read books about body language, voice control, vocal indicators and group dynamics. They study individual personality types that come out through body language and vocal cues, they practice observing these conscious and sub-conscious traits in others and themselves.

As a social engineer most must learn to act / behave in ways that may not be normal to how you are in real life. Below I am going to go over personality traits that originate from a talk I did at Thotcon a few years ago on the same subject. The way I will describe these traits are going to be direct and abrasive, but this is what you have to learn to be an effective social engineer.

It is often said that the biggest security vulnerability is the person!


A social engineer must use charisma to manipulate their target into revealing information they need. Charisma is a fascinating charm that can inspire loyalty in others. Being charismatic means having that personal magic of leadership arousing special enthusiasm for yourself. Charisma can be developed, but it requires an unconventional approach. There’s a catch-22 involved in any attempt to develop your personal magnetism; the harder you try to be charismatic, the less charismatic you will be.

Sociopaths tend to try to seduce and ingratiate themselves with the people around them for their own gain, or for entertainment. It may be true of some, and it is often said of the psychopath that they are superficially charming. Flattery, intimidation, shaming, and blaming are just a few ways a sociopath will try to manipulate you.


No matter the level of discomfort, a social engineer has to be deceitful. It is your job to find a way inside a client network and getting that information is imperative. Being deceitful is the intent to give false impressions in order to extract necessary information. Not telling the whole story is different to lying as a social engineer will often keep a key part of the story to themselves in order to put their mark at a disadvantage.

Sociopaths have a reputation for being dishonest and deceitful. They often feel comfortable lying to get their own way, or to get themselves out of trouble. They also tend to embellish the truth when it suits them. How many times have politicians twisted the facts to suit themselves? This spinning of the truth is often used to disguise bad behavior by sociopaths.


Without reaching that violent level, a social engineer should learn to be quite cold and unsympathetic. You have to be unimpressed and almost uninterested as your mark spills the information you need to achieve your goals.

Some might be openly violent and aggressive. Others will cut you down verbally. Either way, sociopaths tend to show a cruel disregard for other people’s feelings. Sociopaths wont care about you unless it has something to do with or about them or a situation they want to control. Sociopaths do not know how to love someone other than themselves, and cannot feel empathy, but they can pretend to in order to persuade others into their lives.


Making spur of the moment decisions with every consequence thought through thoroughly is part of everyday life for a social engineer. Those consequences just might contain valuable information and each act must have its possible consequences evaluated. You have to have a plan, at least a nice framework and be able to stick to it.

We all have our impulsive moments: a last minute road trip, a drastic new hairstyle, or a new pair of shoes you just have to have. But for a sociopath, making spur of the moment decisions with no thought for the consequences is part of everyday life. They find it extremely difficult to make a plan and stick to it.

Risk Taker

As a social engineer you will have to take some risks in order to test boundaries. It is recommended that you seek out that instant gratification and collect that information quicker. Consider constantly moving the goal posts (within reason) to keep your mark off guard and potentially giving up information they never intended too.

Sociopaths have a deep desire for instant gratification, and it’s not surprising that sociopaths get involved in risky behavior. They tend to have little concern for the safety of others or for themselves. This means that excessive alcohol consumption, drug abuse, compulsive gambling, unsafe sex, and dangerous hobbies (including criminal activities) are common.


Social engineers are creative, and their tactics can be expected to evolve to take advantage of new
technologies and situations. Some people will find this extremely easy to achieve and others will need to practice. What I wrote above hopefully will provide guidance for behaviors that should be at least considered by a social engineer.

Over time and practice you can learn how to recognize how other people are feeling by observing what they say and do. As you progress as social engineers you will learn how to alter these feelings in others by simply changing their own vocal cues and body language. It is only at this point that you consider yourselves to be actual social engineers.


Influence: Science and Practice, ePub, 5th Edition  —  Robert B. Cialdini

Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes   —  Maria Konnikova

Logically Fallacious: The Ultimate Collection of Over 300 Logical Fallacies  —  Bo Bennett

You Can Read Anyone: Never Be Fooled, Lied to, or Taken Advantage of Again  —  David J. Lieberman