Doctoral defence: Kristjan Kikerpill “Crime-as-communication: detecting diagnostically useful information from the content and context of social engineering attacks”

On 1 February at 12:15 Kristjan Kikerpill will defend his doctoral thesis “Crime-as-communication: detecting diagnostically useful information from the content and context of social engineering attacks” for obtaining the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (in Sociology).

Supervisor:
Prof. Andra Siibak, University of Tartu                   

Opponent:
Dr. Elisabeth Carter, University of Roehampton (United Kingdom)

Summary
Under the current circumstances of information overload, social engineering attacks that reach recipients via e-mail, phone calls, text messages and social media have become an increasingly common occurrence. Our exhausted ability to pay attention, the strong emotions created by received messages and the default expectation of truth-telling have combined into a state where falling victim to social engineering attacks is a growing problem with severe financial and psychological consequences for the victims. For the purpose of preventing successful social engineering attacks, the dissertation “Crime-as-Communication: Detecting Diagnostically Useful Information from the Content and Context of Social Engineering Attacks” sought to find out the types of diagnostically useful information available to recipients from the content and context of social engineering attacks. To achieve this aim, the dissertation developed the Crime-as-Communication approach, which follows from the premise that all activities in technology-mediated environments are rooted in and dependent upon communication. Based on the results of qualitative text analysis and qualitative and quantitative content analysis applied to e-mails and descriptions of social engineering attacks reported in international media outlets, the dissertation established multiple informational aspects that help people detect social engineering attacks. Due to the variety of media, such as e-mails and phone calls, used in carrying out social engineering attacks, it is more important to acknowledge the overall significance of an open channel between message senders and recipients. Where an open channel is present, perpetrators use both gain-based appeals and loss-based threats to guide recipients into taking actions that end up harming them. Furthermore, some cybercriminals adapt the content of scam messages to fit the social context - such as the COVID-19 pandemic - salient at the time of circulating the messages.

If you would like to participate in the defence, please send an email to maiu.reinhold@ut.ee by 10:00 on 1 February. You will then receive a link to the defence with the access codes.

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