Off to Virus Bulletin

I’m off to the Virus Bulletin conference in Vancouver for the rest of the week.  While there, I will be presenting a session entitled “The Psychology of Spamming.” 

This presentation doesn’t focus on the psychology of the spammer, but rather, the psychology of the spammee.  What sorts of things go through our heads when we see a spam message, such as a phishing message or a 419?  My presentation focuses on how our brains work when we make decisions.  Here’s a brief summary:

  1. Our brain’s biology – I take a look at how our brains evolved from our stone age ancestors.  Many things that were useful for survival back then are still useful to us today, and we still need them today.  In fact, they are hardwired into our brains.  Chief among this is the limbic system which is the part of the brain that drivers emotions such as greed, fear, and desire.

  2. How emotions affect decisions – Cognitive psychology has done a lot of research into emotions and as it turns out, we need emotions in order to function properly.  Without them, we’d never get anything done.  Yet, emotions can interfere with our decision making process and certain stimuli can have significant effects.  I go into which stimuli these are.
  3. How spammers take advantage of this – I don’t believe that spammers actively take advantage of emotions and decision consciously, but when they do certain things it increases their odds of success.  I take a look at how, exactly, they do this.
  4. Solutions – Finally, I take a look at what sorts of things we can do, both from a technological perspective and psychological perspective, on how we can combat some of the things spammers do to make ourselves more resilient.

Should be a good show… because it also includes a very cool demonstration.

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