Business Management

Rant: Cyber predators feed off the vulnerable

It was nearly time for the mass migration of the herd. The harsh conditions of ‘the plains’ and the intense competition for resources of their ‘congress’ leave them exhausted and in need of waterholes.

They spill out of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and find themselves on the wide open spaces as they head for the lush pastures of Las Ramblas. There is safety in numbers, but this is a difficult crossing and there are predators lying in wait for them. Their distinctive lanyards and multiple gadgets make these IT delegates attractive prey for the pick pockets, Honey Trappers, distraction thieves and Cougars laying in wait.

Many of them won’t make it to the water hole. It’s terrible to watch a poor delegate getting taken down but it’s nature’s way I’m afraid. There’s a whole hierarchy in the food chain. Those IT delegates, in turn, often show no mercy to their own prey. This is something I do feel guilty about, because I have been culpable in this.

As a journalist covering the wonders of the digital age, I’ve often played my part in convincing the herd about wondrously lush cyber territories they could inhabit. Such as online payments and digital banking. That’s like being an agent of change, helping online banking to become the norm, so that the old system is gradually run down and all the human herd is forced to migrate to fresh fields. Like those poor wildebeest on the Serengeti, it soon becomes obvious to the herd that their old environment is not going to sustain them. So they will have to migrate to the online version. Their lives are about to become disrupted. Again. So they’ll have to make yet another dangerous migration.

Now, OK, many of them will survive, because there is safety in numbers, but the move to online commerce will see significant numbers become victims of predators. The banks, like Mother Nature, don’t care. It’s their way of wheedling out the poor, the elderly and the vulnerable, who are least suitable for making this perilous journey.

The predators lie in wait for the herd to get moving and, at crucial junctures, there will be vulnerable members of this community that become isolated. And that’s when they will strike.

An older, slower member of the community will struggle to keep up. The herd doesn’t offer protection now as each member is worried about its own dangerous bottlenecks, uphill climbs and unexpected freefall plummets that come with the new unfamiliar territory.

At some stage, the entire herd will have to navigate their way through a shimmering new solution that, at first glance to the weary participants, looks exactly like the life-enhancing refreshment they need. The solution is cast in a deceptively beautiful light, little beams casting positive headlines over each little ripple as it rolls gently past. In this light its very liquidity seems like an advert for a better world.

Small wonder that some of the less worldly members of the herd plunge in without fear. Older more vulnerable members hold back, but inevitably circumstances will conspire against them until they have no choice.

The soothing sounds, as the solution cascades past, only add to the deception. This will prove a fatally dangerous crossing for the human herd. These new conditions have handed the advantage to the poachers and the predators. There are some fearsome corporate beasts willing to feed off the herd.

As in the Ramblas, there are some – known as The Utilities, the Corporations and the ironically titled Charities – who will electronically pick the herd’s pocket at will. The new conditions make this possible.

Then there are the pack dogs of cybercrime. Some will ambush the herd before their ‘clients’ even get into the waters of this new solution, diverting their victims into a dead end and robbing them. The older members of the herd, who don’t swim as strongly, will be pulled underwater by the corporate crocodiles. That will be the last we see of them, their life force destroyed.

Even those that do make the crossing can be fatally weakened, and soon become mesmerized by a banking condition known as Ts’ and Cs. Bamboozled, they wander round in circles, like a pensioner being passed around the world from call centre to call centre. Eventually they will give up on life.

It’s awful to watch and you feel guilty for not helping. But it’s important for the poor, the young, the old and the vulnerable to be killed off in order to create a stronger, more profitable herd. It’s banking nature’s way.

So I hope you enjoyed MWC and, if you saw an e-commerce guru get robbed in an alley off Las Ramblas, don’t shed any tears for him. It’s nature’s way!


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Nick Booth

Nick Booth worked in IT in the UK’s National Health Service, financial services and The Met Police, witnessing at first hand the disruptive effects of new technology. As a journalist and analyst, his mission is to stop history repeating itself.

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