Blogs & Comment

Winners & Losers: Christie’s clears a billion, CRA goes phishin’

▲ Christie’s

A billion dollars is cool. But is it art?

Christie’s attendants standing by Picasso’s “Woman of Algiers (Version 0).

(Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty)

The prestigious auction house sold US$1 billion worth of artwork this week, setting an industry record and putting rival Sotheby’s to shame—it raised a paltry $379.9 million. (Geez, which philistine’s work were they trying to pawn off? The five Group of Seven members nobody can ever remember?) For Christie’s, the week started with the $179.4 million sale of Pablo Picasso’s Women of Algiers (Version 0), the most ever paid for a work of art at auction. (Fox News took it upon itself to improve upon Picasso’s painting, incidentally.) The work was just one of $700 million worth of art sold that same day, followed by another $658 million sold on Wednesday. “The last few years have been building up to this moment,” an art consultant told the New York Times. “A new class of buyer has entered the market and they’re prepared to pay staggering sums for trophy pictures.” Indeed, these mega-rich buyers don’t necessarily view these pieces as evocative works of art that stir emotions and say something essential about the human condition. Instead, artworks are assets that will hopefully appreciate in value, like real estate. They’re assets worth bragging about to fellow plutocrats, too. But so long as there are vain rich people, Christie’s can be assured a steady stream of customers.

▼ Canada Revenue Agency

Dearest sirs we have much business dealings to propose

Sign for the headquarters of the Canada Revenue Agency

(Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

The CRA has taken steps recently to shore up its internal security measures after a major breach last year forced it to extend the tax-filing deadline. One of those measures has now resulted in more public embarrassment. Thousands of CRA employees fell for a fake phishing attempt recently, even though they knew such a test was coming. Phishing scams attempt to trick people into clicking links that will expose users’ computers to malicious software. About 78% of the CRA’s employees passed the test, but approximately 3,500 could not resist clicking the link when it arrived in their inboxes. Of course, without seeing the actual email used to test the employees, it’s hard to judge just how colossally inept the people running our tax authority truly are. Most Canadians won’t bother considering that nuance, though. The message coming out of this story is that the CRA, which houses untold volumes of sensitive information, is vulnerable to breaches through sheer incompetence. Indeed, that was a scenario public sector unions feared when they caught wind of the test last year, according to the Globe and Mail. “The unions’ main concern was that employees will not perform well on the simulation exercise, resulting in negative media coverage, which could have an impact on the morale of CRA employees,” reads a briefing note to the CRA commissioner. But don’t let this self-fulfilling prophecy get you down, CRA workers! Good news is on the way because I am a lawyer representing a deposed overseas ruler and I need help transferring his hundreds of millions of dollars to a secure bank account. My client is willing to pay you top dollar for your assistance. God bless.