Prank calls and counter measures.

Gunnar Peterson linked to this fun but interesting story:

“He sounded just like Obama,” she said on Thursday, referring to President-elect Barack Obama.
Sensing she was the victim of a spoof by a South Florida radio station, she promptly disconnected the call.

Trouble was, it was Obama.

A chagrined Ros-Lehtinen told the Fox News Channel that she also hung up on Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, when he called her back to explain it really was the next president on the line.

Both Emanuel and Obama tried to convince her the call was for real.

“Guys, it’s a great prank, really,” she said she told them.

It took a subsequent call from California Democratic Rep. Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to finally convince Ros-Lehtinen to talk to Obama.

To convince her that it really was Berman, she said she told him, “Give me the private joke that we share.”

These type of prank calls, when someone calls you and pretends to be a high ranking official in some country, used to be low probability and medium impact risks. Low probability since there was a border most people did not cross. We all laughed with prank calls where a radio presentator pretended to be some unknown person who wanted to order something so extraordinary that it was hard to believe it was true … but funny. But pretending to be the President of France or the President-elect of the United States, that was a whole different story. That was not done, who knows what the repercusions would be! It was also a medium impact risk because in most cases the victim of the prank call was not a VIP or anything, often even just a receptionist at a company. The impact was all personal and completely forgotten after a couple of weeks.

But recently some people changed all this. Today this is a medium to high probability and high impact risk. Certainly a higher probability since others have done it and got away with it. Surely a higher impact was well, just look at what happened to Sarah Palin. It’s not something that is forgotten after a couple of weeks, this is something that sticks to your career now.

But my congratulations to Ros-Lehtinen who did not only recognize the change in the risk profile but also employed a simple but effective counter measure: use of a shared secret.

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