You Just Have to Ask ‘What If’?

I sit in on a weekly conference call with a group that monitors threats that may impact infrastructure in the US, both physical and cyber.  It never ceases to amaze me the number of things that go wrong both natural and man-made.

Today we received notification that there is a fraud alert for GSA contractors selling on schedule 75 and 70.  The main products are HP printer cartridges and laptops.  The criminals have figured a way to use real e-mail addresses to commit fraudulent transactions with stolen credit cards.  Apparently these are very sophisticated programs that enable them to use a real e-mail address and conduct what looks like a legitimate transaction.  I wondered what do you do with printer cartridges and laptops but I guess you sell them on eBay, like the guys in the Bronx who used to sell stereos out of the trunks of their cars.

And last night’s ’60 Minutes’ segments on the flash traders’ front running stock trades by milliseconds just seems to add a bit of a capstone to this discussion.  It’s not illegal, but it is certainly immoral and unethical.

That’s a lot of work to rip people off and given the amount of time and energy wouldn’t it just be easier to apply that creativity and technical knowledge to help people instead of defrauding them?  Think about the skills involved in perpetrating the illegal activities I’ve mentioned: an office, computer knowledge, networking, marketing (loosely defined), shipping & receiving; many of the elements of a legitimate business.  I guess the profit margins are higher on the dark side of the force.

East Coast Satellite Communications was once close to falling for one of these scams: a California University was looking for some Iridium 9555 phones and were happy to help them until they requested the delivery be sent to a residential home in NJ; the UC NJ campus?  Right…

From the Nigerian next-of-kin bank scam to the examples I list above, there are plenty of scenarios of scams and attempted fraud (some ‘legal I have to point out) and while you vet through them you really ought to asking ‘What If”?

  • What if this effort was applied to curing cancer or solving hunger or homelessness?
  • What if these creative and resourceful ‘entrepreneurs’ decided that they would serve humanity instead of attacking it?
  • What if the resources that go into taking away other people’s property were directed into helping those who have nothing

I am not suggesting that all bad guys all of a sudden have an epiphany and decide to join the moral world.  Well, actually, I guess I am.  With all those resources applied to the serious problems of the world……What could be accomplished then?

Thanks for reading.