The key to counteracting social engineering is awareness since social engineers are targeting our lack of cognition, our ignorance, and our fundamental biases. In a cybersecurity context, it’s not as easy to mitigate social engineering as it is to mitigate software and hardware threats. On the software side, we can purchase intrusion detection systems, firewalls, antivirus programs, and other solutions to maintain perimeter security. Attackers will certainly break through at one point or another, but strong cybersecurity products and techniques are readily available. When it comes to social engineering, we can’t just attach a software program to ourselves or our employees to remain secure.
Multi-domain battle is a reality, but requires the consideration of a combination of physical and cognitive domains that will affect the outcome of future battles. Cyber is an extremely important aspect for multi-domain battle; enemies no longer need a traditional weapon system to create losses and challenges on the battlefield. Russia’s ability to synchronize their cyber efforts with traditional military pressure has been incredibly illuminating and raises questions about how we would defend against such attacks. However, we shouldn’t go so far down the cyber rabbit hole that we lose sight of other less concrete, but no less critical dimensions of warfare.
Complementary mental models hold the social world together. It’s not the lines painted on the road that keep us from careening into each other on the highway, as we sadly find out too often. Paper money has no intrinsic value on its own, unless you like the pictures and holograms, are trying to start a fire, need a bookmark, or have just run out of toilet paper. Online credit purchases do not even require the plastic card anymore, and only work because we collectively believe that strings of ones and zeros — stored electronically in computers that we’ll never see — equal our right to receive services and things from other people, and keep them. In all of these cases, it’s not about the symbolic artifact. Our agreements about what those artifacts represent, and our willingness to act on those beliefs, are what keep the wheels of society turning.