Editorial – Shooting Phish in a Barrel

In Edmonton, the Macewan University recently figured out that some of its staff had fallen for an email phishing scam. Some enterprising con-men basically convinced some of the university’s financial administration people that a construction company the university was using had changed its banking information.

The administrators helpfully adjusted the banking information on their end and started direct depositing money into the false vendor’s accounts—to the tune of $11.8 million. Fortunately for the real vendor, he contacted the university about why he wasn’t receiving payment, and, with the help of the police, the university expects to be able to recover almost all the misdirected money.

Alberta Education Minister, Marlin Schmidt, is understandably concerned, and has put out a call to all public institutions to make sure that their financial controls are strong enough.

What makes me take notice though, is that all this money was moved in only three payments, all in August, and the vast bulk of the money, nearly 10 million dollars, was moved in a single payment on August 19. That’s a Saturday. The other payments were all made on Thursdays. It seems reasonable to me to wonder if there might have been an inside man on this job. With over $400 thousand not being recovered (a number that, incidentally, doesn’t match any of the individual payments) that makes for a pretty good severance package for an employee who figured out they could get away with this.

All of this boils down to a reminder that we don’t make internal controls, whether financial regulations, governance bylaws, or operating policies, for the upstanding, honest people in an organization. We make them so that when dishonest or unthinking people get into the organization, on occasion, the damage they can do is limited. As was recently pointed out to me, it’s easy for policy makers to address intended consequences, but it’s the unintended consequences that cause problems. This is why it’s important for people like you to get involved with AUSU posts new bylaws or suggests new programs. Even with the best of intentions, outside perspectives can sometimes see the unintended consequences of a change.

In line with that, our feature article this week is with the Vice-chair of the board of CASA, and she too is calling for input not just from the councils of the student associations that are part of the group, but from students at large as well. Her interview also looks at the goals for CASA this year, and since AUSU is a member of the group, your opinions matter.

We also have a look at several kitchen gadgets that might give you just that little bit of extra time you need each day to save you from having to take yet another extension. Or if you’re just curious as to what on earth a person does with a sushi bazooka. Then we look at reading the classics of literature, not just why you should, but how, if you want to get the biggest benefit. That, plus our regular articles giving you advice or pause mean that this week’s edition should definitely be one where you enjoy the read!

P.S. If you didn’t already know, The Voice Magazine has a Facebook page and a twitter feed if you’re into that kind of thin

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