Spam, Scum and Risk

Do you hate spam? I hate spam. I really hate spam.

I hate spam so much that if anybody ever spams me with an unsolicited spam email trying to sell me spamish RA training, I vow to devote the dark forces of talkRA to rubbishing them at every possible opportunity. You see, I got some spam from GRAPA once, during their early days. I gather lots of people still do. Thankfully, they stopped spamming me. I guess they took me off their list. But recently, some new spammers have polluted my inbox – another group of chancers and clowns promising to teach all the secrets of revenue assurance, fraud management, and (just to really spice things up) some risk management too. Lucky me.

What does this spamtastic firm call itself? iVyN Technologies. I kid you not. Little i, big V, little y, big N. iVyN. I admit I used to have a soft spot for some e e cummings-esque abuse of grammar, but iVyN is going too far. Enough with the small letters and the big letters in the wrong place. It was cute a few years ago. Now it is just getting silly. If we do not all agree to call a truce, and to revert to old-fashioned standards, then every sentence in future wIlL eNd Up LoOkInG lIkE tHiS.

So how much do ivyn want for their training? GBP6500 (USD10500) for the standard distance learning product, GBP8000 (USD13000) for the ‘premium’ version. That is the ‘list price’. That means ‘chump price’ for any of you not familiar with revenue management (though I imagine you all are). Assume the ‘special discount only for favourite customers’ will knock 80% off that figure and you would still have to be a complete idiot to pay that much for a training course that fell off the back of a lorry after being driven around the houses for a few years. Go buy a book instead of reading powerpoint slides off a screen. I know a really good book with a list price of GBP50 (USD80). That means you could buy 130 copies for the amount you would spend on ivyn’s standard distance learning product. 50 quid or 80 bucks, and you get an actual hard-bound book with paper and printed words that you can read even when your computer is turned off. Or GBP6500/USD10500 for the pleasure of sitting in front of a screen watching lame powerpoint slides copied and pasted from the same lame powerpoint presentations that sent you to sleep at every conference you attended in the last 10 years.

I can hear some of you saying: “that’s harsh, Eric… some really nice people wrote some good stuff for this IvYn course.” Well, maybe, in other circumstances, I would agree. But you must be forgetting the bit about spam. Spam is an unethical network-choking bane of modern life. Spam is a tawdry violation of privacy (whoever I gave that email address to, it sure as heck was not to a business called iVyN in the hopes of being sold an RA training course). Spam is the best friend of cyber-criminals. Oh yes. Spam comes from scum. I have zero tolerance for spam, and I sure as heck would never buy anything from any firm that dolls out spam. Do a few more mental cartwheels when considering this course claims to cover the ’emerging’ risk of cybersecurity. Now, even governments have heard of cybersecurity. When a government has heard of something, you know it is well past the point where it is ’emerging’. So I ask you, which scumbags provide the biggest cesspit spawning ground for all the evils of cybercrime? Spammers. If you want a secure network, you do all you can to stop spam. Spammers are vile. Getting cybersecurity training from a firm that spams you is like buying anti-virus software from a business that infected your computer with the kind of malware that pops up messages saying your computer is infected with malware.

I could stop there, but instead I want to poke some fun at the course contents….

Section 1 – Introduction to RA
• Key drivers for RA
• The scope of RA

Yawn! Is there anybody left who is so stupid they cannot get this information for free from somewhere else?

Section 2 – Issues & Controls
• Structure of the network
• Key risks by network node
• Mobile services
• Fixed line services
• Data services

Tut. Here we go with the ‘all networks are essentially the same’ fallacy. But they did identify three kinds of service… mobile, fixed and data. Wow, how varied is that?!? Hmmm…. how did the spammers describe their course? They used the phrase “21st Century Risks”. It is 2011 and we have progressed all the way to mobile, fixed and data, have we? At this rate, it will be the 22nd Century before we get to mobile banking and IPTV. Or rather, we have those now as well, but you have to pay your annual ivyn licence fee to get next year’s update, if you want to find out about the “new” stuff.

Section 3 – Strategy
• Approaches to RA
• The RA maturity model
• Determining the RA ROI

There is only one thing worse than seeing yet another copy and paste of the RA maturity model used as padding in a lame training course. I almost wish I never wrote that blasted maturity model. The one thing worse than seeing the maturity model in the course contents is seeing yet another discussion about determining the ROI for revenue assurance. I swear, with my right hand pressed against a copy of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales’ Accounting Standards and Guidance for Members that if anybody working in RA ever comes to me and tries to show me a special method they use to determine ROI which they learned from some dumb-ass on-line training course, I will personally amass the world’s greatest botnet army, and concentrate all its fire on driving the stupid bugger off the internet forever.

Section 4 – RA Tool Selection

Who is ivyn’s course aimed at? There cannot be many telcos left who do not have an RA tool. For any that do, here is a good tip: go to cVidya and ask to use their ‘cloud-based’ solutions (or whatever they call them). They will probably let you use them for free, for a while, and they will even throw in their own online training course as well. If you like what cVidya offers, pay them something. It is not true that cVidya is willing to work for food, but they will knock 99.99% off their list price if you let them issue a press release. If you do not like the cVidya offering, the experience will still give you a good idea of what you really want, meaning you can go find it without wasting lots of money on guidance. Or just buy our book and get great advice at a good price. Or just read this website for free. But then, ivyn’s course is not aimed at you, because you are the people bright enough to read this. The ivyn course is aimed at the people who only use the internet to read spam.

Internal fraud risks

Maybe it is just me, but I see a connection between internal fraud and incentivizing someone to persuade their telco to buy stupidly expensive online training courses by offering an iPad which the person takes home and conveniently forgets to bring back to the office. But maybe it is just me who thinks like that.

Emerging Risks
• Cyber-security risks
• eCommerce fraud risks
• Social media risks

Hmmm… the so-called ’emerging risks’ take up a few lines at the end of loads and loads of spiel about things you have heard a hundred times before. Obviously cybersecurity, e-commerce and social media are the kinds of risks that only need 10 minutes of attention every other week.

I hate spam. Do you hate spam? If you do, then never reward a spammer. Hammer the spammer, instead. I always do. This firm of spammer scumbags should never have been called Ivyn. It sounds too like “I win”. A much better name would have been uFail.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.