Taking cybercrime seriously
Major corporations are quick to defend their turf and their brands. Why not online, too?
I went to the mall the other day. As I was walking through, I noticed several empty stores, and I started thinking: Suppose I rented one of these and started selling bootleg Apple products? How long do you think it would take Tim Cook’s lawyers to shut me down? I might even end up in jail.
The local K-mart shut down some years ago. The store is still empty. There’s talk about turning it into a massive casino, but I’m not holding my breath. Suppose I rented it and opened a department store. I could call it “Walmart.” How long would it take Sam Walton’s heirs to put me out of business? Might be the same day I opened, and there could be a cold jail cell waiting for me.
Years ago, there used to be a very large flea market in Derry. Apparently, they were selling a lot of bootleg stuff. Among them were knockoffs of Coach products. Coach visited them and warned them. The next time Coach visited, nothing had changed. They shut it down. It never reopened, and I’m told the owners went to jail.
Companies, especially major companies, have always been quick to defend their turf and their brands. Why don’t they do it online?
How many emails do you receive from, supposedly, Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walgreens, CVS and a host of others all offering you incredible bargains? Of course, they’re scams, and we simply delete them if our spam filters haven’t caught them. However, these nuisances are not harmless. They damage, even destroy, the trust and credibility of these companies.
The spammers are ruining the companies’ reputations, and they seem to do little or nothing about it. Of course, anyone who clicks on the link will be sorry they did.
I know fixing this problem would be very difficult, if not impossible, for any single company to do.
A few decades ago, Lawrence, Mass., distinguished itself by becoming the car theft capital of the world. The insurance companies were going nuts. They got together and negotiated with the police department. They agreed to fund the hiring of several cops to work exclusively on investigating and apprehending car thieves. It worked! The number of thefts steadily decreased until they were more in line with other jurisdictions.
It doesn’t look like our federal, state and local governments are giving fixing these cybercrimes a high priority. If these companies got together and negotiated with the federal government, that could change.
We would need the government to agree to prosecute and actually punish the culprits once apprehended. The punishments would have to be severe enough to make this a very unattractive way to fool around or make a living.
Catch and release or minor punishments don’t work. A mandatory minimum 10-year sentence would be far more effective.
Then, we’d need a partnership with Microsoft, Apple, Google, Norton and other leading tech companies to provide the best and brightest experts to develop a tracking system so the culprits could be traced. We might even need to start a separate company to do the tracking. The system would have to be continuously updated, as hackers, scammers, identity thieves and other criminals can be smart and constantly looking for new ways to beat the system.
Imagine the benefits. Companies and organizations could stop the abuse of their names and logos for nefarious purposes. When we get email from one of them, it’s really from them. Although we shouldn’t throw caution to the wind, email could once again become a fairly reliable form of communication.
How do we fund this effort? The mob was pretty good at racketeering and made a lot of money that way. They’d sell “insurance” to business owners, and nothing would happen to their businesses. Those who refused to buy usually experienced a catastrophic loss shortly after.
Of course, this is illegal, but it wouldn’t be with a modification. Unlike the mob, our tracking company would not hurt those who refused to buy. I think most companies, especially those being violated, would be happy to pay a reasonable fee to eliminate this scourge.
Ronald J. Bourque, a consultant and speaker from Salem, has had engagements throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 603-898-1871 or RonBourque3@gmail.com.