The balance between security and irritating your customers

Written by on August 22, 2017 in Opinion with 0 Comments

We spend a lot of time talking about cyber security, hacking and malware here at DisruptiveViews. So we should, it is one of ‘the’ issues of our age.

Generally we do it from the ‘something must be done about it, where is everyone’ point of view.

It is interesting to see the other side of the coin. The fact that companies can put in place draconian measures has to be balanced with customers being put off by too much security, too many password changes and a return to a grey and institutionalised past.

Last week we took a break from Scotland and went to Tenerife for a week.

During our time there we posted pictures on Facebook of us having a great time in the sun (#annoying) and Facebook encouraged us to ‘check in’ every time we looked at our timeline. I apologise for being a Facebook user, having been rude about them on a daily basis for the last two years, but it is a good platform for us old people to keep in touch with old friends that are real friends from long ago.

On our return to Scotland, we checked Facebook and I had a message that said my account had been temporarily locked, ‘click continue to find out why’. Apparently someone from Smolensk had tried to access my account three hours earlier. It even gave me the IP address of the person who had tried. It then said ‘was this you?’ ‘If yes, click here, if no click here’. I clicked ‘no’. It then invited me to reset my password.

As my thumb hovered over the ‘enter current password’ line, I stopped.

If someone could access my account from Smolensk (it could have been anywhere, I am not Smolenskist), could said person put up a fake Facebook page that conned me into giving them my current, and then new, passwords? It looked genuine, but one thing we know about hackers nowadays is that they are clever people and they con a lot of people.

We went onto Facebook’s FAQ section using another device, and found, well, not a lot about this particular scenario. There was plenty about extremism, money laundering, grooming and other unsavoury activities, but nothing about this.

After a while, we decided to risk it, and it turned out to be genuine, and that someone from Smolensk had indeed tried to hack my account, and Facebook had stopped them.

So now I can, again, while away the evenings looking at pictures of old friends’ babies playing with the cat, other friends children riding their ponies and who knows what.

Facebook is, of course, not the only company juggling this dilemma. I received a ‘your bill is available to view’ email from British Gas, who for some reason, provide my electricity. It looked OK, except, there was a surprisingly large gap at the bottom of the email, and there seemed to be a lot of links to ‘my account’, all in bold, as if compelling me to click. I left it unopened and consigned it to cyber heaven, or is it hell?

BT is the same, and I would imagine that Libby Barr, the Director of Customer Service must live in fear of someone being hacked using one of the many spoof emails from BT that are ‘signed’ by her.

Some companies do have good ideas, though. I like the email from PayPal, who can do no wrong at the moment, that says I will never receive an email from them that does include my whole name. So, whenever I get an invitation to check my account from PayPal that just says ‘Dear A’ I consign it to cyber heaven without a thought.

We are also becoming better educated, knowing that no company will actually ask you for your password. We know that if we do think something is suspicious we go to the real site via another browser and see if we can find ‘the offer’ or the ‘suspicious activity’ via alternative routes.

All in all, while we pontificate about security, we must spare a thought for companies that are trying to find the balance between security and irritation. It is not easy.

And, by the way, why should Facebook think it is fine that I am in Tenerife and not Smolensk? That is definitely Smolenskist in my book.

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Alex Leslie

About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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