Why we’re more vulnerable than ever to a new class of fraudsters: study
The latest research into fraudsters’ ability to mask their identities and steal from vulnerable consumers is a serious and troubling development, says a report from the University of Nottingham.
Researchers found a significant rise in cyber-criminals using the ‘bots’ to steal and use personal data from consumers who were not involved in any legal proceedings.
The researchers analysed the behaviour of 5,000 fraudsters from 2014-16 and found that the rate of fraudulent data theft was on the rise.
This is despite a recent crackdown by the UK authorities.
“The trend is clearly concerning and shows a lack of accountability for fraudsters.
Our research shows that the UK has not taken sufficient action to curb the misuse of this new class,” said Dr Paul Toot, lead author of the research.
The UK’s cyber-crime taskforce is also considering increasing sanctions on companies that fail to take action against cyber-attacks.
In the United States, researchers have recently published an article examining the use of ‘bots’, or software programs that mimic the behaviour and appearance of humans, in the crime of online gambling.
A number of studies have identified a wide range of behaviours that are commonly associated with these bots, such as the use or the ability to manipulate social media profiles to mask a user’s identity, or the use to disguise a profile’s location.
“These behaviours have been shown to be used to steal or impersonate individuals in real-time from the UK, US, Canada and Australia,” said lead author Dr Paul Deane.
“For example, a bot could claim to be the owner of a UK-based company that had lost funds and then use that information to claim credit for its own losses.
Another bot could be used as a front for fraud, such that it would claim to have purchased a product on eBay but then would then take control of the account of a victim of a fraud.”
Some bot types are more sophisticated than others.
For example, one type of bot could have a range of features that mimic or mimic the appearance of a human user, while others mimic a person’s behaviour, such those who are very chatty, or who seem to be very interested in people’s personal information.
“In the study, researchers examined 5,096 incidents of fraud that took place in the United Kingdom in 2014-2016.
They found a dramatic rise in the use and use of bot-like behaviour and behaviour that resembled a human, including a range that included:The number of victims who claimed to have been victims of fraud increased by nearly 90 per cent between 2014 and 2016, from around 2,000 to more than 3,500.
A third of the fraud victims reported using the bot to access their personal information, such information such as name, address and email address.
A further 19 per cent reported using bot-type behaviour to access bank accounts and the accounts of other individuals.
A second study published earlier this year also found a rise in fraudsters using bots to steal personal data.
This study analysed data from more than 4,000 fraudulent transactions involving online purchases of goods and services in the UK from 2009 to 2016.
The number who reported fraud using a bot to obtain personal data increased from 5,928 in the same period to a whopping 6,500 between 2014-15 and 2016-17.
The findings show that fraudsters are more likely to use the bot in a bid to gain advantage over victims.”
We also find that there is a clear correlation between the use by fraudsters of bot or software to impersonate a human and the level of fraud perpetrated against the victim.””
It is likely that they will use the same tactics to steal their victims’ personal information and other personal data, such their credit card details and their bank accounts.”
We also find that there is a clear correlation between the use by fraudsters of bot or software to impersonate a human and the level of fraud perpetrated against the victim.
“While the fraudsters may claim to use bots to commit fraud, the actual amount of fraud perpetuated is likely much higher than the reported fraud.”
“Fraudsters have increasingly adopted online banking as a means to commit financial crimes.
The rise in fraudulent transactions using bots and software to access personal information is a worrying development.”
The report also examined how cyber-criminal activity is affecting consumers and businesses.
The report found a number of different patterns emerge.
“The most obvious is that frauds are more prevalent in high-profile cases where victims are more vulnerable to being the target of fraudulent behaviour,” Dr Paul said.
“A typical case in which we found the most apparent rise in bot activity was that of fraud in the health care industry, where a high proportion of fraud occurred in relation to the NHS.”
However, our study also highlights a worrying trend, with the use in frauds of many of the same techniques used by fraudster operators, such the use for instance of fake identity documents.