Selling fake goods is nothing new. It dates back to the beginning of commerce. Making fraudulent claims about patent medicines was very common in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 20th and 21st centuries regulations and laws started to limit the possibilities. The emergence of a consumer society during the late 20th century led to a vigorous trade in fake goods, especially fashion clothing and accessories – designer dresses to handbags to gold watches. Now in the 21st century with the ubiquity of digital products and services we are experiencing the same thing with information. Fake news is a recent development. Selling of fraudulent financial investments is another area where criminals have been very successful at exploiting peoples’ greed. Fake services sold by fraudulent marketing claims are a new problem.
The SABSA Institute knows this only too well from its own experiences. More than once we have faced unofficial training offered by apparently reputable training providers purporting to offer authentic SABSA training and certification. In one case, a large bank decided to train some people in SABSA to boost their security architecture team expertise. They identified a firm advertising local training – a firm with a global reputation as a consulting house and corporate auditor. They bought the course and sent their people to training, with the certification exam to be scheduled later. It never was. The provider was not accredited to provide certification training.
All this was before The SABSA Institute incorporated as an official body. Before that, the Institute was a concept rather than an incorporated body. There was no public reference point for the bank to check on the authenticity of the training. Now the Institute regulates training through Accredited Education Partners, although that does not prevent unauthorized training companies from continuing to offer fake certification training. Only recently another case has come to light.
This begs the question “who are victims?” In the case of fake certification SABSA training, several groups. Firstly, there are those members of the SABSA Community that are sold fake certification training believing it to be authentic. In the case of the bank, they eventually understood that it was a fraud by the continual postponement of the certification exam. In the end, the bank received compensation. However, there was a risk that the whole reputation of SABSA in the marketplace might be damaged. The Institute now exists to protect the intellectual property rights on behalf of the Community through the use of trademarks and copyright.
Secondly, there is an entire SABSA eco-system. Accredited Education Partners, examiners, exam markers, trainers, courseware authors, and other bona fide third parties offering authorized SABSA-related products and services. All of these parties make money from fees and royalties. The fraudulent offering of fake certification training courses deprives these parties of revenue – revenue that is effectively stolen by the fraudulent training company.
So what have we learned on our way through this legal maze? What advice can we give to those who are victims of fake news or fake information services? Most important is awareness of the problem. If you have people making decisions by what they read on the web or social media, make sure they approach their work with a skeptical mind. The human mind has a default setting of ‘trust,’ and it is this that can be socially engineered and exploited to sell us any fake product or service. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably isn’t true, but then many fakes can look real too. Develop a policy framework and make sure you are compliant with any and all license arrangement that you enter. If you are an information provider, make sure you protect your product with suitable copyright and trademarks. Most of it is common sense – but then that’s SABSA for you – common sense packaged into a framework.