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New ‘sleepwalking’ warning from fraud watchdog

July 4th 2018

We are sleepwalking into a perilous new world of high-tech cybercrime. That is the stark warning in a new report issued by fraud watchdog the Fraud Advisory Panel (FAP)

A society-wide failure to properly prepare for the next generation of cybercriminals – who will be armed with artificial intelligence (AI), big-data analytics and cryptocurrencies – risks a crippling new epidemic of economic crime, warns the Panel in its new report Fraud futures: understanding the old to prepare for the new. The full report can be downloaded here.

A failure to learn

Fraud is as old as human society. New technologies – from writing to railways – have always empowered the criminal. So why are we still so bad at making our great innovations – like the internet – secure from criminal abuse? This is the question at the heart of the Fraud Advisory Panel’s latest special report, Fraud futures: understanding the old to prepare for the new. 

Reviewing the internet-driven explosion in fraud and cybercrime over the last 20 years, the Panel notes that a systematic, collective failure to consider the security implications of new technologies has handed victims on a plate en masse to today’s fraudsters. 

Technology companies who give little thought to the crime and security consequences of their inventions; politicians who are too slow to grasp the policy implications while continuing to cut defensive budgets; businesses who launch new services without considering the customer risks they create: all have helped create a paradise for the fraudster and the cyber-criminal. 

Looking forward, the report includes half a dozen contributions by respected futurologists. Collectively they paint an ominous picture of a potent new wave of cybercrime enabled by next generation technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, and big-data analytics. 

Quoting expert warnings that standard password security advice makes no sense in a home with hundreds of networked devices (the so-called Internet of Things), the report characterises the government response to date as ‘too little, too late’. It calls (again) for security to be an obligatory part of development and certification so that new technologies have strong security designed-in from the very beginning. 

David Kirk, the Fraud Advisory Panel Chairman, said: “The present explosion of fraud and cybercrime is not an act of nature, it is the result of choices made at the highest levels in modern society. The internet and the smartphone have been allowed to expose honest citizens to predatory crime on a massive scale while simultaneously their protectors in the criminal justice system have been hobbled. Must we repeatedly re-live this catastrophe? If we do not learn from our past mistakes much worse is to come. New technologies are creating exciting new opportunities for all of us to live, work and play in a new world. As well as making sure that they are widely exploited for the greater good we must ensure that they are much more resistant to abuse by the bad.”