Well, it didn’t happen to me- but here’s another J! True Security Story for you…

I went to the salon today to ‘get my nails did’ and was greeted with quite a ruckus. The entire staff is Vietnamese- no big surprise there- but the owners and most employees speak English extremely well and so everyone is always chit-chatting throughout the salon.

The wife side of the husband-wife team was especially giddy as she shared a little gem of a story with me today… and I didn’t feel I’d be doing you justice to keep it to myself. 

They (the salon staff) all live in one of the larger cities here in NC. One of their friends (a middle-aged guy) was out shopping Monday and was sitting in his car in a parking lot during a coming- or going- to a store. A young girl (mid-20’s) came up to his car and motioned to ask for use of his cell phone.

Now, at this point in the story, I could have told you the rest…

photo_girlcell.jpgHe opened the window a bit and the young lady asked to borrow his phone for a moment to call a family member. Turns out she had some car troubles and needed a ride. Being the nice gentleman that he is, he lent her the phone and she took a couple of steps away to make the call. Only… she didn’t stop. Evidently she got about 4 cars down the row before our chivalrous guy got out of the car and gave chase.

When he got in reach, she pushed him down to the ground and – yep – ran back to his car, phone still in hand… and drove away.

He now has no car and no phone. So, ironically enough, he then had to approach a stranger and politely ask for the use of their cell to phone home and let the group know he was bamboozled. A few tears were shed, but his wife assured him it would be fine and he shouldn’t be scared. (No, I’m not making that up).

I was giggling right along with her (and the guy’s wife, who happened to be there).

Moments later I thought to myself, “I hope that doesn’t happen to me!” Almost in the same instant I realized… it probably wouldn’t. I’ve been a bit of a paranoid freak since I was little, thanks probably in most part to having two ex-military intelligence parents. For all my life I’ve been raised with ‘the security mindset’ as Schneier refers to it.

Always suspicious… always calculating… always aware… and certainly never underestimating a situation.

And so then I had to muse… WHAT WAS HE THINKING leaving the car running and unlocked to go after the siren with the cell? For the sake of politeness, I kept my question to my ‘inside voice’, but I do have to wonder why you’d sacrifice the security of a vehicle for a $50 cell phone.

The moral of the story…  There are two. 1) Involve someone with a ‘security mindset’ and 2) Your security is only as strong as your people. A sweet damsel in distress… social engineering at it’s finest…

# # #


Author, speaker, and recognized authority on network and wireless security architectures, Jennifer (JJ) Minella helps organizations solve technical problems and align teams.

View all posts