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Friday, May 19, 2017

Hackers Have Better Customer Service Than Governments

The government could learn a thing or two about "consumer" relations from hackers.

Even those who hold the government in the highest esteem can admit that dealing with agencies like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can make just about anyone feel like an enemy of the state.

In fact, the IRS’s track record for customer service is so dismal, one young American found a way to make a little money off of the agency’s incompetence by offering the service of drones to consumers unwilling to wait on hold but more than willing to pay by the minute to have a robot do the waiting in their stead.

Hackers are doing their best to make extortion as pleasant as possible.

However, while the IRS, like just about every other government entity, appears to have been trained to irritate anyone unfortunate enough to be forced to deal with them – which is pretty much every United States citizen – exemplary customer service skills have been exhibited by a rival group of extortionists: hackers.

Pleasant Thieves 

In 2014, panic spread throughout the town of Tewksbury, Massachusetts after hackers used “ransomware” in an attempt to extort money.

However, shortly after demanding that the town pay them $600, the hackers followed up with a list of frequently asked questions to ensure that the town was not left grappling with technology they didn’t understand. They also wanted to provide an easy way to pay the ransom online to make the process as easy as possible for their victims.

Governments have one thing the hackers do not: the use of unbridled force.

Sure, extortion may not be the noblest of jobs, but there is no moral difference between state agents demanding tax dollars under the threat of violence and hackers holding a town ransom unless $600 are coughed up. In fact, most ransomware instances involve a much smaller price to pay than what some pay in taxes each year.

What is most remarkable is that the hackers in question demonstrated customer service skills that far surpass any shown by employees of the government. If anyone doubts this, they need only visit their local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

The Government Can Learn from Hackers 

Much like how market forces incentivize companies to adjust their practices in order to satisfy consumers, hackers have learned that improving their customer services practices will result in a higher probability that their victims would comply with the demands, instead of trying to beat the hackers at their own game by involving law enforcement.

There can be no denying that theft of any manner is morally reprehensible.

As such, over the past several years these smooth criminals have upped their game and utilized marketing techniques, streamlined payment options, and even set up call centers that offer technical support to guide the victims through the process.

Americans would be so lucky to expect the same from the government. However, the government has one thing the hackers do not, and that is the use of unbridled force. Hackers can steal data or shut down websites, but if an American refuses to pay taxes, they will quickly find themselves behind bars… oddly enough at the expense of the taxpayer.

This tactic appears to be successful, since the small Massachusetts town and the law enforcement officials assigned to the case agreed that giving into the hackers’ request was a more viable solution than attempting to fight. Luckily, the hackers also offered a data recovery service to help the town in case any information was lost in the process.

James Trombly, president of Delphi Technology Solutions, a Massachusetts-based technology firm that assists victims of hacking commented on this customer service phenomenon saying:

“It’s a perfect business model, as long as you overlook the fact that they are doing something awful.”

Again, there can be no denying that theft of any manner is morally reprehensible, but when comparing the hackers’ crime against the routine criminal acts committed by the state, there is hardly a difference between the two: except that hackers at least make the process of submitting to extortion as easy as possible.

  • Brittany is a writer for the Pacific Legal Foundation. She is a co-host of “The Way The World Works,” a Tuttle Twins podcast for families.