Here’s the most astonishing, scary thing I came across all week. Have a look. I promise that you’ll consider it time very well spent and a real eye-opener.
Armed only with a man’s cell phone number, a hacker skilled in what’s called “social engineering” is able to totally take over his account. She effortlessly convinces a representative of the phone company that she’s the man’s wife, gets herself added to the account, and then changes the password. Bingo!
Key to the act is her crying baby in the background, which is only a crying baby on YouTube. This undoubtedly causes the customer service representative (CSR) to pity the poor, harried mom who explains, “My husband’s like, ‘We’re about to apply for a loan and we just had a baby and he’s like, “Get this done by today.”‘”
I’m sure the CSR had been trained to never, ever, ever do any of the things he or she did next, letting this total stranger, who had presented no convincing evidence of anything beyond the sound of a crying baby, commandeer one of the phone accounts the CSR is supposed to protect.
But if you had been in the CSR’s place, would you have been able to turn away this desperate wife and mother?
The day has already arrived when half the calls I make for customer service are answered by a robot who says something like, “If you want to know your account balance, say, ‘Account balance.’ If you want to open a new account, say, ‘New account.'” It will not be long before the robots will be able to understand complete sentences and paragraphs. Indeed, they already can, but this technology has not found its way to my local bank.
The great thing about robots is that they do exactly as they are told. Maddening and obstinate as they are, they would never fall prey to the wiles of the social engineer in the video.
On the day that the phone company realizes this, every CSR will lose his or her job.
Same goes for loan officers, insurance underwriters, and many other jobs that involve making decisions that are supposed to be impartial and rule-based. How many multi-million-dollar class-action lawsuits over racial discrimination in lending will it take before lenders automate the process using rules that have been vetted by their lawyers and maybe the NAACP?
Come to think of it, robots are already nibbling away at the practice of law. I read some time ago that it is becoming increasingly hard for junior lawyers to find work because computers have now taken over the low-level chore of discovering precedents pertaining to a particular case.
In all of these areas, computer robots will do or are already doing a better job than we are.
Now here’s a scary thought: if you were the man whose cell phone account was hacked in the video, or if you had been denied a loan because of the racial prejudice of a loan officer, would you say the human deserves to keep his job?