APSE: A Practical Course in a Virtual World

By September 25, 2020November 24th, 2020General, Pentesting, SE

APSE: A Practical Course in a Virtual WorldMuch of social engineering takes place via technology—phishing and vishing (voice phishing) being prime examples. However, holding a social engineering class virtually was not something Social-Engineer, LLC took lightly. Our very own Advanced Practical Social Engineering (APSE) course is a highly interactive course that balances practical lectures and discussion with multiple hands-on exercises, demonstrations, and some very creative homework assignments. It was not designed with digital delivery in mind. Our goal was to make the Advance Practical Social Engineering, a practical course in a virtual world

The Elephant in the Room

COVID-19 has triggered widespread shutdowns and disruptions to working environments and our everyday lives. With this, there’s been a rapid rise in remote working. Digitization has accelerated overnight and converting things that ought to be relayed in person to digital delivery is no small feat. Bluntly put, it’s like building the plane whilst flying it.

In such a fluid and unpredictable environment, we at Social-Engineer, LLC weren’t sure how APSE could be delivered without compromise. We wanted to deliver the course in a way that ensured none of the practical and applied information held within the course slipped through the digital cracks. More than that, we wondered how we could engender digital trust. At all costs, including the cost of the course, Social-Engineer determined that APSE would not be disseminated digitally if it became less valuable when done so.

Expectations vs. Reality

Spoiler alert: APSE went off without (much of) a glitch.

Before embarking on the first ever APSE digital course, Social-Engineer looked at digitization over the pandemic period to mitigate the risks that have emerged or been elevated. We looked at how we could ensure the technology would support new ways of working, as well as digital delivery. So, there was no possibility of delivering a diluted course, we mobilized, stabilized and strategized. We knew everything hinged on our course’s critical processes and our delivery of them.

The first day of the course we had a technical issue due to a web meeting facilitation app. The problem was easily saved by switching to another platform that we and the students were all more comfortable with. We couldn’t have dreamed this would be the only real issue we’d run into. Astoundingly, it was.

At first, we expected this course’s new method of delivery to be an outcome of crisis management. This turned out not to be the case. What we found was that making some adjustments in how the material was delivered actually made the reality something far greater: APSE is now an evolved course. The students seem to have gotten the same key takeaways, quality, and mind-altering experience digitally as previous students that had the course delivered in person. The interaction and feedback we got suggests that APSE can be delivered digitally and nothing is lost in doing so. In other words, APSE is now versatile and fits the needs of students today. We couldn’t be more excited.

As one student put it:

“Normally I’m a bit skeptical about online classes, but this one just broke all the rules – awesome & relevant content combined with stories from real life, lots of practical & challenging exercises made this experience one of the best for the online classes I ever had!”

The What, How, When and Why

The What: APSE is an advanced training program designed to equip individuals with the advanced techniques and tools used in social engineering. During the course, students get the chance to practice these skills with individualized feedback from experienced social engineers.

The How: That was easy. We use popular and easy-to-use hosting software and we have unparalleled content. That’s not a brag. APSE is a confluence of knowledge from some of the world’s foremost experts and greatest minds, from Robin Dreeke, Dr.Robert Ciandini, Joe Navarro, and Dr. Paul Ekman, to name a few.

The When and the Why: This was hard to untangle, but ultimately, we believe APSE deserved to go virtual and that we could provide our students the course they signed up for pre-COVID. Black Hat, our first foray into this virtual backdrop seemed like the right place to meet the challenge.

As another of our students said:

“It was all kinds of awesome. The skills learned here are valuable beyond the obvious red-teaming applications and into improving everyday communications, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to attend.”

The only question left to answer is: when will we do this again? Thanks to the success of our first virtual session, the feedback from our students and the evolution of APSE, SECOM is scheduling another virtual APSE training starting November 17 at 9:00 am and running to November 20 at 5:00 pm CST.

The Advancement of APSE and its Students

It’s no secret that APSE is an expansive and engaging course. It’s designed as much for the student as it is for the student’s career. It encompasses multiple hands-on exercises, demonstrations, and unique homework exercises. Just as social engineering is the intersection of security and social skill, APSE is the intersection of studentship and real-world experience. Here, they come together to reveal the power of influence when applied properly. And all that happens in four days. So, it’s exhausting and exhilarating all at once. Now, it’s digitally deliverable without missing a single iota of the magic.