Phishing is defined as the attempt to obtain sensitive information for nefarious purposes by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Money is inevitably at the heart of this evil.
Hang on though, that’s a definition that could include the entire IT industry. Anyone who appears to bait customers with freebies is clearly guilty of this crime. Think of all those IT companies who try to entice visitors to their exhibition stand with the dubious promise of a lucrative prize. They’re guilty of Phishing. Even if the ‘free iPad’ or Porsche actually existed, which I seriously doubt, you have absolutely no chance of winning because the competitions are rigged. The person that wins the 32 inch Plasma screen is invariably the one who could most easily afford to buy it, because they will be the CIO of First Global Banking and will be on a six figure salary. Even if they had to buy an iPad with their own money (which they don’t) they could fund it with the change they’d find down the back of their personal helicopter seat.
So everyone, whether they are an IT manager visiting a trade show, or a journalist attending a PR party or someone filling out a form for a free app, is being persuaded to surrender their privacy on false pretences.
Anyone who makes a simple offer which is one tenth as complex as the terms and conditions that apply is, I’d argue, guilty of Phishing. As is every company with a deliberately long, incomprehensible and evasive Software Licence Agreement. In our own way we hacks, needless to say, are just as guilty. For reasons of duplicity, I won’t explain what they are because all qualifying journalists have to swear a Hypocritic Oath.
Ultimately, we’re all guilty of Phishing. It’s a matter of degrees. We might as well all go and hand ourselves in at the local police station. Not that they’d have a clue what to do. Any sensible copper could see the offer of hundreds of easily solvable crimes and winnable prosecution cases and think: this is far too good to be true. So we can’t repent for our sins, even if we wanted to. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s someone on the end of my line.
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