Internet icon, he cons, they will have conned

“So, I have this watch I’d like to sell you. You probably don’t need a watch, and you could likely live without this one, but the nice lady you’re with would surely be impressed if you were wearing some nice new shiny man-links on your wrist. Just look at the way she’s studying your face as you examine it!


“And the price! How can you go wrong? $20 dollars and it’s yours. You walk away a new man, your girl is bowled over, and at that price -- well, you really put one over on me.”


"He’s right," you think. "It’s flashy, I dig the design, she’s really acting as though she’s impressed. The guy looks like a good guy, and he’s talking a square deal … I think.


"What the heck? Call me a sucker, but what if this thing is legit? I may have just stepped into a bit of good luck. I’ll hand over this nice new twenty and put the glitz on…"


As you walk away, the seller disappears, the watch stops, and your girl can’t get over why in the world you would do such a thing. Her look of being impressed was really one of incredulous amazement at your stupidity.


To be human is to be weak, just read Hamlet or King Lear. And tragedy is not limited to storied interactions. It permeates all human activity, right? So it is in the modern corporations, peopled by potential tragedies sitting at every monitor and keyboard. Any user falling for a seemingly innocent ploy can bring down the whole company. Click that email attachment, download that fun game, and unknown -- unseen even -- a door opens to the Raiders of the Lost Bot.


The modern term of art is “social engineering,” but it may be the world’s third-oldest profession. Every generation produces people who are skilled at conning others, and a sucker is born every 60,000 milliseconds. It’s the final frontier for the current con artist, the guy who lurks around every corner of the internet stalking his next mark.


The only effective way to combat this menace, the experts agree, is end-user training, constant vigilance, and up-to-date patches. Train, watch, patch… Train, watch, patch…


Why am I reminded of a half strophe, “the day the music died” (from Don McLean’s American Pie)? The internet made the world different, but in a lot of ways the world is just the same. The criminal tragedy suffusing the internet parallels the demise of hope that the internet could be free of human malfeasance.


But, alas poor Yorrick, fellow of infinite jest, we must progress: Train, watch, patch…



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