Trust but Verify


Trust but Verify

I was reading through this morning and came across a story Astrid put up concerning false QR codes and how they can lead you to fake web sites and phish your hard earned bucks. You can read about it here.

Seems nefarious individuals are sticking fake QR codes on parking meters asking parkers to click on them and then follow the instructions to pay for the parking. Rather than go to a legitimate site, these codes drive you to a fake site which collects your payment info and then boy are you in trouble.

This story got me to thinking about technology in general, and “how do we know” in particular.

Let’s say you are a parking operator and you cut a deal with an on line high tech company to provide parking reservations for your facility. Just how do you know how many reservations have been made and how much money has been collected.

Back in the day, when everyone pulled a ticket. You could simply count the tickets and compare the time on the ticket with the money deposited and know exactly whether or not you were getting what’s due to you. That’s called an audit.

How can you audit an invisible high tech behind the scenes system that is run completely outside your purview? What do you do about someone who shows up at your garage with a note on their phone that says they have a reservation and have paid but you have no knowledge of that transaction? Your staff could record all the information off the person’s phone and then send it to the reservation company for confirmation.   But will they?  Do they? Just how do you know?

In reality the systems are based on trust. You trust that the software engineers that wrote it did a good job. You trust that there is no one down in the weeds manipulating the data. You trust that everything works out to your advantage.

I don’t for one minute believe that these high tech companies are out to cheat anyone. Infact, I know personally the CEOs of most of them, and trust them implicitly. But then, its not my garage nor my money.

The Gipper said “Trust but Verify.” To do so there must be a method to verify. Maybe its time to be skeptical and ask hard questions. How do you verify? Frankly I don’t know the answer.


John Van Horn

John Van Horn

One Response

  1. Long ago in a galaxy far away I suggested to a client that the only way to know that your meters were useable was to go and look at them, every day.

    OK so they are on-line and smart, that measures what it measures, it doesn’t tell you if the meter is working. Is there tape on the coin slot, has someone spray painted the display? you get the point. I think that this is a similar problem with the same answer.

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