Technology: friend or foe of fraud?

Feb 13, 2020

With increasing sophistication in fraud schemes, how can we stay safe? Shane Flanagan shares three essential tips to protect ourselves and our organisations against cyber-crime.

In the past 10 years, we have seen increasing levels of sophistication in fraud schemes and a significant rise in the number of cyber-criminal groups and organisations targeting both companies and individuals.

Traditional fraud, focused on monetary assets, continues to exist but the exponential growth in the amount of data held by companies, facilitated and created by technology, is now a target for fraudsters. On the dark web, private health data typically sells for 10 times more than other personal data.

As our lives and finances move ever more online, so too does fraud. 

Trading one fraud for another

The introduction of chip and pin on credit cards saw a significant reduction in credit card fraud, but this has subsequently seen fraudsters move online with a rise in online payments fraud.

Phishing continues to be one of the most common and effective methods for fraudsters to target victims. Estimates suggest that over 90% of cyberattacks start with a phishing email, tricking users into handing over information. While many phishing emails use generic wording, some fraudsters are using personal information (typically sourced from social media) to add legitimacy to their requests. This tactic is known as “spear fishing”.  

Advances in technology have made it easier and cheaper for fraudsters to dupe victims. For example, professional-looking or near replicas of legitimate websites can be pulled together in minutes with little or no technical knowledge and at very little cost to lend credibility to fraud schemes.   

Advances in communication tech have created messaging and chat apps that enable fraudsters to collude in more covert ways. Thankfully, advances in discovery technology mean that conversations held using such applications can be easily and effectively analysed using appropriate tools should an investigation prove necessary.  

Artificial intelligence: friend or foe?

Developments in artificial intelligence (AI) are likely to pave the way for future frauds. When given a variety of audio samples, AI can now clone the sound of a target’s voice, and if overlaid on synthesised video of them speaking, the result can be uncanny. Either in video or audio form, this technology could be used to commit extensive and damaging fraud.

Of course, AI can be a source for good. In fact, AI-enabled data analytics can now detect and stop transactions before they are even processed.

What can you do to protect yourself?

These tips may seem self-evident, but they will help to protect you.

  1. Stay fraud aware – Use the many resources available online to ensure you know about the latest fraud scams and how you can avoid them.
  2. Think before you share – The information you share online, especially about where you live, work and the specifics about your career, can be dangerous in the wrong hands. Do you really need to share the specifics of your life in an open forum such as social media? If not, don’t.
  3. Be sceptical – If a situation seems odd or an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your instincts and follow them and make enquiries about the legitimacy of the person or company you are about to engage with to ensure you don’t fall foul of fraudsters.

Shane Flanagan is a manager in Deloitte’s forensic practice.