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Rise in cybercrime as fraudsters exploit COVID-19

Market research store Research And Markets has published an article on the IT security industry that highlights how fraudsters are using the COVID-19 pandemic to try and line their pockets. The report, ‘Rise in Cybercrime as Criminals Exploit COVID-19 Pandemic’, show that as COVID-19 continues to spread across the world, cybercrime levels have been rising with it. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the fear and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic as well as the increased time spent online during social-distancing to trick people into releasing sensitive information.

The report says there has been a huge rise in COVID-19 themed phishing scams where criminals send emails that appear to come from hospitals or government agencies in order to trick people into downloading an attachment or giving them personally identifying information. The World Health Organisation recently warned of criminals sending emails posing as the WHO for such purposes.

The rise in cybercrime also poses a severe threat to businesses who have been forced to switch to working from home during the pandemic; many with little time to prepare for the risks or train employees in recognising cyber-attacks. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the increased numbers of people working remotely to deploy ransomware attacks in order to exploit vulnerabilities in a company’s security. There has also been a rise in the use of social engineering tactics to gain access to confidential data.

Cyber solutions in demand

The Research and Markets report says that the increase in cybercrime has led to soaring demand for cybersecurity solutions from companies such as Barracuda Networks, Cisco Systems. BAE Systems, McAfee, Symantec, Radware and Illusive Networks.

The latest industry response has come from Microsoft and Temenos, who have partnered to offer fast access to the latter’s AI-driven financial crime mitigation solution. The software-as-a-service (SaaS) tool is designed to allow banks to protect both their customers and their organisation from the financial crime increase during the pandemic, particularly as banks have moved to remote working to protect their staff.

The Temenos Financial Crime Mitigation (FCM) solution based on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform can be deployed within weeks. The two companies are opening up access to banks for a 14-day trial, available until 30 June. As part of the collaboration with Microsoft, Temenos is offering system access and online tutorials for users to familiarise themselves with navigation of the system and learn how it can support them in a revised operating landscape.

Temenos FCM allows banks’ operators to respond to alerts and collaborate with team members while working remotely. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Temenos customers across every size of institution have continued to benefit from Temenos FCM’s coverage regardless of the fact that their teams are working remotely.

The Financial Actions Task Force (FATF), the global standard setter for combating money laundering and terrorism financing, warns businesses to remain vigilant for emerging money laundering and terrorist financing risks as criminals may seek to exploit gaps and weaknesses in Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) systems under the assumption that resources are focused elsewhere. Fraudsters have already been very quick to adapt well-known fraud schemes to target individual citizens, businesses and public organisations. These include various types of adapted versions of telephone fraud schemes, supply scams and decontamination scams.

SCA deadline pushed back

While strong customer authentication (SCA) is one way to protect payments against fraud, another impact of the COVID-19 crisis has been that the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) are giving the industry an additional six months to implement SCA for e-commerce. The FCA says this will minimise potential disruption to merchants and consumers. The new timeline of 14 September 2021 replaces the original 14 March 2021 date.

Firms are required to take all necessary steps to comply with the revised detailed phased implementation plan and critical path to avoid the risk of enforcement action. The FCA says it expects UK Finance, as coordinator for the industry, to discuss the detailed phased implementation plan and critical path with all stakeholders and agree it with the FCA as soon as possible. In the meantime, firms should continue with the necessary preparatory activities such as robust end-to-end testing. After 14 September 2021, any firm that fails to comply with the requirements for SCA will be subject to full FCA supervisory and enforcement action.

When asked about the extension to the deadline for implementing SCA in the UK, Charles Damen, SVP product strategy at Worldpay Merchant Solutions, FIS, commented:

“We believe a delay will be a welcome relief for merchants given the current situation with COVID-19, and will give them more time to become “SCA-ready”. The manner in which payments are processed needs to fundamentally change ahead of a revised SCA deadline. Over 70% of payments processed today are not compliant with SCA so there is much for merchants to do in becoming “SCA-ready” well in advance of this deadline.”


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