Yesterday I decided to perform a bit of a social engineering experiment on USTREAM.
I provided "live" coverage of Hurricane Sandy from space.
Of course by live coverage...I actually mean I took a photo which was published by NASA, added static, a nonsense "cam" label, and a timestamp, and streamed the image to USTREAM. I only posted a couple links in my Twitter feed, and watched with amusement as others began to watch the channel, believing they really were seeing a live cam feed of Hurricane Sandy from space.
The most interesting part of all this is that for hours people stared at an image which never actually changed...except for a small period of time when I added in a photoshopped UFO just for laughs.
As you can see from this chart, the cam never took off in popularity, but according to USTREAM a total of 78 unique viewers watched my fake Sandy cam on 10/29...and not a single comment was posted accusing the cam of being fake.
So what lessons can we take away from this?
For one, it shows that social engineering is still an effective trick. Provide the user what they want want to see, and they'll believe it's real. This is the same principle behind advance fee frauds and online "lottery" scams, just in a non-malicious way.
I encourage readers to post their own thoughts on this experiment.