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Corporates accelerating adoption of cyber defences

Bottomline and Strategic Treasurer have released the results of the 2021 Treasury Fraud & Controls Survey. This is the sixth annual survey between the long-time collaborators, whose research partnership also includes the annual B2B Payments Survey.

As in previous years, the 2021 survey gathered details about corporate and banking experiences, actions and plans regarding fraud. Results show that the pandemic accelerated both the threat of fraud and the response to it, with corporate and banking alignment on defensive automation. 

Key findings

The 2021 survey has revealed an increasing three year trend for corporates spending more/significantly more on security. This was the case for 17% of respondents in 2019, up to 19% in 2020, and rising to almost one-quarter of respondents (22%) in 2021.

Business email compromise is the biggest cyber threat to firms. A huge majority (86%) of bank respondents perceive business email compromise/authorised fraud to be the greatest risk to their business over the next 1-2 years.  

Just over one-fifth of fraud experiences (21%) had a connection to COVID-19, highlighting the impact that the pandemic has had on cyber security. 

"Ultimately, we are seeing digital warfare escalation, in which firms are meeting the criminal use of automation with their own defensive tools and controls," said Craig Jeffery, managing partner of Strategic Treasurer.

Pandemic problems

Against a multi-year trend of increasing sophistication and automation of fraud, opportunistic criminals leveraged the pandemic-driven push to remote operations to strike in a blitz offensive. The rapid transition to a work from home (WFH) environment created exposures that outpaced structural and procedural defenses, resulting in accelerated threats and fraud loss.

Smaller firms were hit the hardest (26% of small business fraud had a tie to the virus, as opposed to only 17% for larger companies). Presumably, their potential payouts previously fell below the radar of criminals who now, with the development of greater automation and a backdrop of expanded vulnerabilities, have broadened their sights to include targets of all sizes.

Fighting back against the fraudsters

Organisational responses have been intentional and multifaceted, enhancing both human and technical elements of defence. Staff assignments in accountability for managing fraud have grown by 50% from levels measured just two years ago. 

On the technology front, firms are advancing via increased levels of automation, use of backend functions like fraud interdiction, and improved customer experience (90% noted this as a key area of technology investment) for optimising the use of these digital tools - a trend which overlaps both banks and corporates.  

“Investments to digitally transform customer experiences and power faster payments are met with equally dynamic threats," commented Omri Kletter, VP, Cyber Crime and Fraud Management at Bottomline. "Survey results show ongoing concern about business email compromise, authorised fraud, and account takeover, as well as an increase in threats faced by small and medium-sized corporate customers. The results are a clear call-to-action, and Bottomline is on the front-lines of the effort with the protection of end-customers top of mind.”  

Survey methodology

The 2021 Treasury Fraud & Controls Survey ran in the last quarter of 2020, with nearly 100 questions and over 300 respondents globally.

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