Chris Camacho, Chief Strategy Officer at Flashpoint
Fraud is an inevitability of business, and one that most won’t concede they’re susceptible to. But the blunt truth is, insiders who are close to critical systems—or outsiders who are skilled enough to exploit vulnerabilities in anti-fraud and other security controls—will steal. They may target assets they’re entrusted to protect or cook the books to hide their tracks; in the end both types of fraudsters aim to make off with significant money.
Fraud persists, and frankly, it’s not realistic to believe businesses can take measures that will permanently eradicate it. Fighting fraud, however, doesn’t have to be in vain. Here are three tips to help businesses combat fraud:
Get inside the adversary’s head
Anti-fraud systems may be effective and getting better, but they’re not going to deter a profit-motivated criminal. The challenge then becomes an exercise in anticipating the fraudster’s next move. In order to get inside an adversary’s head, anti-fraud professionals must consider what incentivises a fraudster and what their targets could be. In most cases, this is a simple exercise: credit card data, personally identifiable information (PII), user account login credentials, and other types of proprietary data and information are common targets.
It’s also imperative to consider how fraudsters might attempt to hurdle existing controls in order to access your business’ assets. Multi-factor authentication may protect some payment card transactions, but what about gift cards, for example. Unlike bank-issued credit and debit cards, gift cards are generally not held to strict anti-fraud standards, which is largely why they are a desirable asset among many fraudsters. Illicit vendors selling stolen gift cards have become commonplace on the Deep & Dark Web (DDW) in recent years, leading to an uptick in instances of gift card fraud.
Thinking like a fraudster means considering all of the options available to an attacker and admitting that certain systems or processes may be flawed. Proactively identifying and addressing any weaknesses in existing anti-fraud programs—such as what fraudsters determined are often present within gift card security controls—can help businesses better anticipate and prepare for fraud.
Have eyes and ears on DDW fraud forums
Thinking like a criminal is only one part of this strategy. To accurately anticipate how your company, your peers, or your industry is being targeted, it’s important to have insight into the conversations and behaviours of those perpetuating fraud. Not all organisations are going to have proper visibility into these realms, therefore it’s important to have a trusted partner with eyes and ears on the DDW, for example.
Certain DDW forums focus on fraud, and on these forums, certain trends emerge. For example, discussions related to the lax anti-fraud controls of gift cards eventually manifested in a spike in gift card fraud.
Many fraudsters’ ever-evolving tactics bear little resemblance to the tried-and-true fraud schemes with which most businesses are familiar. Although countless variations of credit card fraud, for example, are generally well-known and well-mitigated in the financial services and retail industries, many businesses continue to incur substantial losses from lesser-known types of fraud. In addition to gift card fraud, refund fraud, health savings account fraud, and rewards point fraud are only a few of many such examples that were initially conceived within the cybercriminal underground before posing a threat to businesses.
The DDW can be a rich source of insight into emerging fraud tactics and schemes. But because accessing and engaging within these online communities can be challenging and risky without the proper expertise and protections, businesses are encouraged to work with reputable intelligence vendors to more effectively, easily, and safely gain visibility into the cybercriminal underground.
Keep track of regional ties and variations
Analysts have tied different types of fraud certain regions such as Eastern Europe, forcing businesses go to great lengths to gain insight into new schemes and tactics. These types of insights are critical for establishing countermeasures, the most effective of which typically account for the social, cultural, and linguistic nuances known to characterise fraudulent activity originating in certain regions.
But in recent years, new cybercriminal communities and, as a result—new tactics and types of fraud—have quickly emerged in many more regions. Latin America is one such example. While fraudsters in Latin America have long been considered unsophisticated, unorganised, and unlikely to pose any substantial threats to businesses, this community has since evolved substantially. Many businesses that previously had no reason to monitor the Spanish-language cybercriminal underground are now striving to understand and combat threats originating from fraudsters in Latin America. And given that threats and indicators can vary substantially across different regions and communities, keeping track of these variations and new developments is a must for businesses and anti-fraud teams.
Just as fraudsters are extremely resilient, persistent, and resourceful, businesses, too, should seek to emulate these characteristics when fighting fraud. This means approaching fraud from new perspectives, learning about emerging schemes and tactics proactively, and seeking third-party services and expertise when necessary. While businesses have little control over the existence of fraud, they can control the extent to which they prepare for and mitigate this ever-evolving threat.