Section Four - Abusers
A story about replying to spam and cryptocurrencies (12 minutes)
The next category of bad actors are abusers.
Unlike hackers or identity thieves that try to break in and steal things, abusers just use the technology. Only not in the way it was intended.
'The performance art people will tie a phone to a dog and let it run around the park; the Russians will use the app to run servicedenial attacks and spread panic; and little Johnny will self-report symptoms to get the whole school sent home.’ - Rob Kitchin on the corona app.
In this section we argue that it is a good idea to think carefully about how a technology can be abused. It is often fun to brainstorm about that and take it from us, even if you think you have eradicated all the abuse, people will still find ways to abuse a technology. However, such a brainstorm does help you to investigate whether a number of obvious ways of abuse can be prevented.
Example: Suppose that during the development of commercial airplanes someone would have said: what if these big aeroplanes are used to carry out terrorist attacks? This would have been no reason not to develop these airplanes. However, better thought could have been given to the design of the access to the cockpit.
Let's look at another example:
Email is a technology that is great for a lot of things, but it is also used by abusers to send SPAM. Watch this fun video on replying to SPAM (10 minutes).
There is now a rat race between people who build SPAM filters and people who send SPAM. Both are getting better at what they do, both use AI.
- Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which were meant to be able to reliably conduct economic transactions without a ‘man in the middle,' have also proven to be an ideal solution for extortionists or for the transfer of criminal money;
- Social media also proves to be a great platform for bullying!
- Systems that warn you about speed traps, can be used to make you drive too fast where there are no warnings (or maybe that was the intention);
- Dating sites can be used by people who pretend to be someone they are not;
- Airbnb can be used by real estate sharks driving out original residents;
- And so on.
As stated, the best way to find potential abusers is to brainstorm. Try to think: what can bad actors do with my technology? Remember, if it is possible, somebody will probably do it and the impact of one bad actor is often larger than thousands of people who use the system for good. When you know what potential abusers can do, you can take precautions, but there always has to be a balance.
Can I prevent the damage the bad actor can do and at what costs?
Take aways from section four:
- Even if intentions are good, your technology will be abused;
- Brainstorming about potential abuse helps you to consider countermeasures.