Identity Theft and the Gullible Computer User: What Sun Tzu in The Art of War Might Teach

Joseph Savirimuthu


Securing trust is now a priority. Identity theft, phishing and pharming have exposed
shortcomings in the criminal law. The online environment is now seen as the playground of
criminals. Online criminal activities pose significant social and economic costs. Apparently, the
Fraud Act 2006 is the instrument that will now neutralise the threats posed by phishers and identity
thieves. This concept paper is an attempt to chart a less tenuous path of claim and counterclaim that
often rears its head when the subject turns to personal Internet security. Accordingly, the paper aims
to initiate a debate on how we can begin to think about information security and the role of law
against the growing threats posed by identity thieves and phishing. I draw on the insights of Sun Tzu
in The Art of War as way of understanding how best we can manage and reduce complexity. The
debates have all too often focussed on liability rules and legal reform. The resulting impasse can be
overcome if the problem is first of all properly characterised. A balanced policy debate requires an
understanding of two key matters - ‘trivergence’ and the gullible computer user. The hypothesis is
that before we can think about regulatory tools to curb practices like phishing an identity theft we
need a better understanding of the interactions between data, devices and networks.

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