This article covers low-tech, social engineering tactics that are shown in a clip from the TV show, Better Call Saul. The character, Mike Ehrmantraut, accesses restricted areas of the Madrigal corporation by stealing an employee badge from Barry Hedberg and using social engineering.
To learn more about how to not fall victim to social engineering scams, check out the articles in the Related Items section.
What to Look For
While watching the video, look for examples of the psychological principles social engineers use:
- Reciprocity - People doing favors for each other.
- Commitment and Consistency - Sticking with what's already been chosen.
- Social Proof – Doing things that others are doing.
- Authority - Obeying people who are perceived to have power or seniority over you.
- Liking- People are more easily persuaded by someone who is friendly.
- Scarcity - People are drawn to things that are perceived to be exclusive or only for a limited time.
Watch the Video (3 minutes):
After viewing the clip, read on to find out how the psychological principles were demonstrated in the video.
- Mike returns the stolen badge to Barry Hedberg and it’s suggested he returns the favor by brining Mike to the cubicles where the managers are instead of calling security.
- Off-screen, the reciprocity principle is possibly at play when Barry shows up to work without his badge, security still lets him into the building, and he quickly gets a temporary ID. As an established employee, he may have done favors for the security guards in the past, so they would return the favor by letting him in without a badge.
Commitment and Consistency
- Building security guards followed the consistency routine of having an employee badge means the bearer enters the building without questioning. The security guards were not trained on what to do when someone with a stolen badge tries to enter. The camera even makes a point of zooming in on the ID and then Mike's face to emphasize the two men only look vaguely similar, so someone should've stopped him before he entered the warehouse.
- The two men in the break room have previously committed to getting everyone to sign the birthday card. So that takes priority over questioning Mike about what is he is doing there.
- The men Mike drives past in the warehouse are deep in conversation. They’ve already committed to the conversation, so they will not to stop it and question Mike.
- People like to have consistency in their day and the security guards would be motivated to not disrupt the workday with a facility wide badge check over a perceived insignificant event of a misplaced badge.
- In the break room the first person to talk to Mike didn’t question his presence, so the bystander didn’t either. The first person is focusing on getting people to sign the birthday card and the bystander follows suit.
- In the warehouse, Mike drives right past a group of workers and no one questions him. In human psychology, people tend to avoid rocking the boat.
- It’s assumed Barry brought Mike to the manager on the cubicle floor. That action made the manager assume Mike was supposed to be in the building. The manager doesn’t question Mike until several minutes into his speech about the facility’s security failings.
- Mike is wearing a Madrigal floor supervisor badge.
- He is a man over 50 and wearing a safety vest in the warehouse, so it looks like he's a warehouse supervisor.
- He is riding one of the warehouse golf carts, which also makes him look like a supervisor.
- He asks an employee why the staff are not wearing lift belts. Those are the types of questions employees expect to receive from supervisors.
- He emphasizes “rules are rules” in his lift belt speech to the employee.
- When talking to the manager, he says he “waltzed through security with someone else’s ID.” The security guards see possessing an employee ID as giving the bearer the authority to enter the building.
- Mike’s air of authority as he's speaking means the manager on the cubicle floor didn’t ask him who he was until several minutes into his speech
- Mike agreed to sign the office birthday card. Notice how Mike didn't even try to be extra friendly in the break room. He just did the bare minimum of signing the card with a generic message.
- Mike’s lift belt speech in the warehouse shows he cares about worker safety, which is something an employee likes to see in their supervisor.
- The security guards let Barry into the building without his badge and they did not follow any strict security protocol. Either Barry is likable and they wanted to do him a favor. Or the guards wanted to be seen as likeable by doing a favor for someone having a rough morning. It is assumed they made it easy for him to acquire the orange employee badge he’s wearing when Mike returns the original to him.
- In Mike’s speech to the manager he points out that there was no facility wide badge check when Barry showed up without his ID. One possible motivation is wanting to be likeable and not inconvenience the staff over something perceived as trivial.
- The perceived exclusivity of the employee badges makes people automatically trust the bearer.