The Equifax data breach led to hundreds of thousands of sensitive details of US citizens being laid bare. It also pointed to the importance of robust measures and good data hygiene amongst businesses. Especially ones in the business of protecting citizens and their security and privacy!
However, while understanding around data breaches is increasing and businesses and consumers are becoming more aware of the importance of personal data being protected, the real problem is that malware is spreading and fast. And that is not all, it is mutating as it spreads, so every week we hear of newer strains that have been created – leading to businesses losing custom, money and reputation.
With the industry reeling from a crippling cyber skills shortage, it is increasingly difficult for businesses to keep on top of the latest developments in malware but also in how to protect themselves from it and patches they need to put in place.
The most effective way to is to share information with other organisations. Sharing is caring, but equally, crime waves tend to affect similar organisations the same way, so a forum or membership body that provides a platform for discussion is the way forward here.
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CIFAS has been doing just that in the area of fraud prevention, for about 30 years. Set up originally by retail credit companies to help reduce the threat of fraudsters going into large departmental stores and getting credit using stolen identities, it’s role has become more prominent, complicated and indispensable
The idea of a network works because fraudsters have a high level of residualism. Statistically, if someone has committed fraud, they have a 40-50% chance of reoffending again. However, if you can stop them- chances are that they will not be able to commit a crime again using the same identities.
The idea has worked so well that CIFAS now has 420 members. Apart from retail banks and insurance companies, building societies they also have non-traditional businesses signing up, like charities, academia, telecom and increasingly public sector. Apart from this, they have some big hitters like Home Office, Student Loan Office and Big Lottery as their members too.
Simon Dukes, CEO, CIFAS says: ‘The principal is the same as it was when we started off but now it is very high tech. We have about 1000 unique fraud instances sent to us every day. Every year, for last 4 yrs, we have helped prevent £1.2 billon pounds in fraud loss.
‘We know what the amount of money we have saved is, because we rely on organisations to tell us how much fraud our systems have stopped. The way it works is, depending on the type of business, customers approach it for, say, a credit card. If they apply, and if they had committed fraud 4 yrs ago, CIFAS will have it on file.
‘Based on the information we provide the financial institution, they will alter the amount of money they give the applicant, in turn saving money on what they had initially wanted to lend.
‘If the company is then defrauded by the £1000 credit that was given, they will say that had it not been for CIFAS, the amount would have been 5k, and so CIFAS has prevented 4k of loss from this transaction. CIFAS usually has to reply in .3 second on whether an applicant has committed fraud in the last 6 years. If they have, the company will decide what their risk appetite is and if they want to tweak the offer to give them less credit limit.
‘Anecdotally, I have heard that criminals tend to target non-members for fraud. CIFAS is a not-for-profit organisation and so our members list is open for everyone to see… And this means criminals are privy to the information too!
‘We partner with large companies that can help accelerate our tech advancements- we are a not for profit so organisations join us because of the effectiveness of our product.
Communicating threat trends and forensic details within sectors and across the wider market
‘We communicate using a number of ways. Information management tools are built into our system. People using our systems will see any particular trends that are affecting their sector on a daily basis.
‘Secondly, we also have business sector working parties who bring together analysts and specialists and in a non-competitive environment, they can discuss issues and threats affecting thir companies, knowing the knowledge will not be used for competitive advantage in the room.
‘We have working parties very often when we invite member organisations to chat to their peer group and get a sense of where their organisation is, in terms of threat levels and what the main worries for their sector are.
Practical tips: learning from industries and regulators that have built a successful threat sharing network
‘At CIFAS we also have organised fraud intelligence groups where members, non-members and law enforcement come together to discuss crimes. Training courses are held here on-site and members are provided with assistance with financial investigations.
‘My discussion at R3 will be business-focussed and aimed at those whose organisations are affected by fraud the most.
What needs to be put in place to create a wider cooperative network?
‘Fraud will not go away and certain type of identity crime is increasing. We are seeing a sharp rise in money laundering and insider fraud by own employees.
‘Sharing data in responsible way can not only reduce risk of crime, but also provide businesses more offers and be more profitable. This is not just because of a better bottom line but also the culture of data sharing and best practive contributes to the whole way of doing better business.
’60 percent of fraud is committed online. A culture of good cyber security will mean a reduction in risk which will lead to a reduction in online crime, both internal and external. Having a group of security-aware employees also helps with their understanding on what an internal fraudster will be doing on the company’s systems. They will be able to spot transactions that shouldn’t be there in the first place.
‘There should also be a culture of talking to each other so if there is nefarious activity going on within the company, they can act as whistleblowers.
‘Cultural aspects of business where employees are empowered and an educated workforce are good for business, generally.’