Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

How to protect people against phishing and other scams

Anne says: Last week I selected an article about misinformation and specifically the coronavirus. But it doesn’t stop there. There’s email scams and spreading misinformation. This week I’m sharing articles on phishing emails and spreading misinformation to extend the conversation further and to draw your attention to how awareness of our own behaviours might assist in the reduction of these issues.

Phishing should not be a new concept to anyone who has been using the internet for more than a year (or less, I’m being generous). To be specific, phishing is: people who use identity deception to defraud e-mail users (think Nigerian scams that tell you you’ve inherited millions of dollars and similar ones). Initially, these were difficult to stop and the advice was: “Watch out for poorly spelled e-mails; and do not click on links.”  

Although they were easy to spot, many people still fell for the stories (about 3% ) and that’s why we still see them around today – only takes a few naive users and they have a market! However, the phishers have become smarter and now they can impersonate people we may know, or worse, work with (currently these exploits are around 70% successful). This is NOT about someone hacking your account, which usually relates to a breach of password security. To date, the best defence has been to educate users on security practices – a costly and apparently not particularly effective strategy. The article goes so far as to claim:

Unaided humans are no longer able to adequately defend themselves against cybercrime, any more than fighters with bows and arrows can defeat enemies armed with attack helicopters.

The current surge in phishing is trying to combine users awareness with computer programs to detect unusual sender details (often difficult to detect when you receive an email from a regular contact). In the meantime, our best defence is:

teach your users basic digital hygiene, but commit your budget and time to staying a step ahead of the enemy in the technical arms race that is impossible to avoid.

Basic digital hygiene for me always means giving it the duck review. What’s that? If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then the chances are… it is a duck! Don’t open the attachments, don’t reply to the email – if it’s asking for something or an action – check with the sender (who you already know) via another means – SMS, WhatsApp or internal chat channels. Clearly, easier said than done when you’re busy and only using partial attention to scanning through your emails!

Right – now that’s your email phishing lesson. How about the spreading of misinformation (unintentionally – I’m not going to deal with intentional behaviours here, not today)?

Misinformation is defined by Wired as information “spread by people who genuinely believe what they’re saying”.

In contrast, disinformation is spread “… by those who aim to sow chaos and confusion.”

The similarity with current phishing attempts, as users, it can be really difficult to determine what is true or authentic information. However, it’s far more complicated – and the authors are also quick to disregard our motives for sharing content. They say that complicates it even further. They use the analogy of individuals polluting the environment – an interesting selection considering the focus on climate change. Some of the examples, like washing your hair with shampoo made from petrochemicals that then gets washed down the drain and into the water system, provides a lens for unintentional polluting (or sharing misinformation) with the motivation of purposely polluting the water systems.

The information ecology, like the environment, is polluted by our actions. They explain that even RT-ing (retweeting) posts that criticise falsehoods is unintentionally supplying further amplification to these messages – hence more pollution. The concern here is how do we share any information, without fuelling misinformation or promoting those who intend to stir up disinformation (and watch the outrage rocket a topic into a headline!

Here’s what the authors suggest using the polluting analogy:

... pollution might be unavoidable, but you can reduce the runoff by considering two separate waste sites: the spot where you’re standing and the areas downstream… What we can control is how and when we choose to post; and by extension, the amount of pollution we filter into the landscape…

This is an almost impossible task for us to realise – but perhaps, before you like, RT, or share a post – stop and consider the environmental impact. Are you fuelling a position and causing the amplification unintentionally? Even if you feel strongly that something has to be said, perhaps there’s another way to do that, without including the original post?

And please, there are ducks out there among your emails, be alert and don’t get caught paddling upstream against a phishing scam!


Building an open mobility ecosystem using blockchain technology

Christoph says: In one of my recent Friday Faves I reflected on the future of recruiting and the use of AI in that process. This week I would like to share a case study based on another technology that is totally “en vogue” and has been touted to revolutionize everything – Blockchain! If you have not heard of Blockchain, you probably have heard of Bitcoin, Etherium, Ripple and so on. Blockchain is simply put the technology that enables these cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrency though is only one particular use case. Verifying the authenticity of a product or a person’s identity, tracking goods along the supply chain or seamless payments are other interesting use cases.

If you cut out the promotional messages of the case study published by IBM, it is quite an interesting read. The case study covers a joint project initiated by DB Systel (the IT service provider for DB Group (the former German Railroad company, today an international mobility provider) and IBM. The aim of the project is to build a platform that will allow travellers to book one ticket for his entire journey covering a variety of transport options and providers. Thanks to smart contracts, which are at the heart of the blockchain technology, the split of the fare among the providers will happen within a day and at some point in realtime.

What I find most interesting about this initiative though is not necessarily the technology. It is the fact that DB Systel has undergone a tremendous transformation, from being the ugly IT child of a large state-corporate to a nimble and agile IT solution provider that now ventures into building open ecosystems. The organization realised that keeping the servers and workstations for its employees running could not be its future.  It started embarking on a journey about five years ago by redefining its existence and purpose. They completely remodelled their structures (product teams, service teams) and set out new ways of working together. The initial focus was still on servicing the approximately 300.000 employees in Germany, providing the IT infrastructure but also building digital products. Now, as you can gather from the case study, DB Systel is taking on completely new challenges that will see them playing a crucial part in the survival of the former state-run mobility provider. In my eyes, it is less important what fancy technology you use, as long as it solves big issues and provides value to people. DB Systel is a prime example of this.


Corporate buzzwords are how workers pretend to be adults

Jakkii says: Have you ever played – literally or figuratively – “buzzword bingo”? I know I have! Especially at conferences, but also in meetings – and also with myself!

The article starts out discussing something to which I think we often don’t give much thought: how the use of buzzwords and ‘corporate jargon’ in the workplace is, in many ways, an indication of belonging.

In this way, speaking in business jargon is a way of showing that you fit in with the office, the Copenhagen Business School professor Mary Yoko Brannen told me. One of the most important elements of culture is language.

But it then takes a more cynical turn, as it hits on the nothingness and annoyingness of work, as well as “circling back” to a point raised earlier by suggesting we are always pretending at work – putting on a show, and behaving differently than we do in our personal lives.

This is a short read, but there’s quite a bit to reflect upon as individuals: why we use buzzwords, why they annoy us, and what we can do about it – if, indeed, we should do anything about it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on buzzwords – which one(s) annoy you the most??


Tech Friday Five

Social Media Friday Five

And bonus video:

Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: virtual prisons, blinded by satellites, and robots in love. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

The stories this week

Robot of the week: Amazon’s robot valentine

02:37 – Is the future of prisons virtual?

09:18 – Why the night sky will never be the same

Other stories we bring up

Our previous conversation about tech and prisons

OneWeb launches 34 satellites

Hackers could shut down satellites

Hurling satellites into space with a giant centrifuge

Vivienne Baldassare detects and characterizes massive black holes

Elon Musk says he will revolutionise the Internet with satellites

Starlink is creating an exoskeleton of satellites around the Earth

Astronomers in Italy consider taking the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ)

Two large satellites almost collided in space

The Kessler effect


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