Payment Fraud is like a Global Virus

5 August 2021
Fraud is like a Virus: Joshua Bower-Saul CEO of Cybertonica
Payment Fraud is like a Global Virus

The coronavirus pandemic has been the perfect storm for financial and payment fraud. The transformation of our purchasing habits online has led to a 70 percent increase in fraud and scams.

What’s more, fraudsters are now sharing techniques and building technology to beat the old #fraud management systems. 

These sad facts show that those that live from payment fraud are themselves acting like a global virus, spreading rapidly. They are mutating and coming up with variants that most incumbent systems can neither track nor trace. We decided to take this angle to look at the “fraud ecosystem” to learn from the comparison.

We are transforming this approach with an innovative biological twist helping set our shared understanding of how fraud is operating today. This also includes how it spreads and how it is affecting today’s “all-digital” lifestyle. 

Cybercriminals in the global payments & banking systems are like viruses in an organism

Fraudsters live using a host and constantly probe and try to create vulnerabilities in the hosts’ defence mechanisms. Just like the immune system in humans, the kind of fraud management system used by #payment businesses (acquiring, issuing and processing) determines which businesses and merchants online will “get sick”. Serious problems arise due to fraud and data breaches that are often connected.

When a robust and dynamic defensive layer is in place, #fraudsters start migrating to conditions with weaker defences. Here they are more likely to survive, making catching them less risky. Like viruses and other parasites, surviving is down to poor organisms (organisation) without defence (fraud prevention system). In addition, in case they get lucky, a place where they can remain undetected. Here they learn more about the customers, data and rules in place to take this knowledge to their next attack. 

If you try to fight a virus or criminal they both evolve, with changes seen to the virus’s genetic material to bypass the immune response. In the cyber world, codes and algorithms fraudsters use when bypassing security measures cause evolution too. This is through being allowed to enter and infect the businesses they are attacking successfully. Just like viral organisms, they perfect those techniques that allow them access to the largest number and most vulnerable hosts. 

Covid-19 related fraud reports March 2021-February2021: ActionFraud, BBC
The activity peaked between April and May 2020, and January 2021 – both times when lockdowns were in force.

The variants of cybercrime

There are many types of viruses, just as there are many types of fraud. This is including the classic hijacking of stolen cards, the capture of user details through fake websites and #authentication processes, social engineering, embedded malware, bots, ATO and identity theft being some of the variations seen inside this ecosystem. 

Cybercriminals are living in different payment channels. They are adapting daily their technology and approach to specific social and economic conditions. During the pandemic, this has become easier as the social and economic difficulties push people to look for products. People also look for services and solutions, 80% of which are via digital channels.

We have all heard about virus ‘variants’ – these may arise in one corner of the globe and transmit to another. This is just the same as fraudsters doing cross-border fraud. They can even “market” their variant on the dark web as an exploit kit to help others conduct #cybercrime attacks… And as it multiplies, such fraud is more difficult to catch and fight. 

Ideally, all businesses would have the best and newest dynamic fraud detection and reaction platforms, but in reality, it is a purchase that many delay, seeing it as a cost. 

Yet what is the true cost of “not vaccinating” or not protecting your environment from the fraud onslaught? It can ruin your business and every dollar of fraud winnings creates another $2 dollars of damage economically. 

There is no guaranteed vaccine for all types of (payment) fraud, but some work better than others

Although there is no guarantee against fraud itself or the presence of fraudulent actors in the ecosystem, by investing in R&D and new means of preventing fraud, both the vendors and the businesses are helping the global digital payments ecosystem to protect itself.

Businesses often believe that fraud attacks are something abstract to them and it’s an issue that lies with their neighbours. Just like when the infection cases are soaring, people tend to believe they are safe. However, with technological innovation and evolution today, anyone has the risk of an attack and nobody can operate risk-free unless we decide to start putting serious attention to the pandemic of cybercrime.

A penny of prevention is worth a pound of cure   

Nobody sits at home cooking up their own vaccines during the pandemic. Huge amounts of research, experience and thousands of machine learning produced molecular combinations need to be tested, managed and the data analysed.

In the same way, the temptation to build in-house solutions for fraud prevention cuts in several ways the results of a business:  

  1. The simple rulesets of the earlier era do not suffice; systems must be robust and multi-channel, able to scan all payments together or separately.  
  2. Finding the skills is very hard and then spinning up the team and budgeting for this over two extremely busy years of development – all this is time and resources wasted that could be used to win more customers for your payment business. And make them and your systems safe from infection. 

Home remedies will not work long term on so tough an opponent

By using up to date remedies, viruses that seem invincible CAN be conquered and the industry can go from strength to strength.  

We take this metaphor to its conclusion by introducing you to the remedy we at Cybertonica prescribe: fraud prevention solutions that use all the most sophisticated tools available: machine learning, rules and behavioural biometrics, all of them connected to the reporting and monitoring solutions that allow you real-time to see how you stand and to make sure you “isolate” the fraud virus from your systems and customers.

Take your mask off, but be sure you have had your “jab” first!

Check out Cybertonica’s fraud prevention solutions to stand up to payment fraud; give your business complete 360° protection today! By taking the virus seriously and using the most advanced vaccine in the market, you help yourself, your customers and the ecosystem as a whole to heal and grow healthy for the long term.

Happy return to the (new) normal!

Listen to our CEO Joshua Bower-Saul’s careful words on the virus and fraud:

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