It’s a Game of Cops and Robbers: Communications Fraudsters Pose a Threat, but Anti-Fraud Measures Are Available

Joel Stradling
Joel Stradling

Summary Bullets:

  • Communications fraud is a huge business bleeding massive sums of revenue.
  • Fraudsters are sophisticated; attacks are constant and well-orchestrated by criminal gangs.
  • Be vigilant!  Invest in an anti-fraud system if your business relies on high-volume voice traffic.

Telecom fraud can be conducted via a bewildering range of sneaky tricks and tactics, including PBX dial-through, inflated call rates on premium numbers, SIM box theft, and international bypass.  Examples of revenue loss for telecom providers include falsely boosted traffic, or bypassing termination rates by false SIM box locations.  A1 Telekom Austria has put the figure of annual revenue loss for carriers at shocking 6% of overall revenue.  The BYOD phenomenon, more IT running in the cloud, and the wider prevalence of M2M will all contribute to greater exposure of networks supporting cloud-based and mobile offerings to hacking.  Moreover, as IP networks become globally ubiquitous, communications fraud becomes a part of the bigger overall cybercrime picture, whereby the fraudster only needs a computer and Internet access to conduct criminal activity. 

The retail enterprise may not be impacted with overpaying, because the majority of fraud activities mean revenue loss to other parties such as telcos and ISPs, but not always; you need to look at any inflated call bills and consider placing upper limit caps or alerts with your carrier partner or a fraud solution specialist.  In the wholesale carrier-to-carrier segment, operators are well aware of the challenges in thwarting fraud, and very sophisticated tools are available and continue to be developed to stay one step ahead of criminal parties.  For example, BICS’ latest anti-fraud service can extrapolate events across a global network to catch out in real-time any unusual traffic patterns pointing to fraud, such as a repeat call to a certain PBX port indicating hacking efforts into that PBX.  Meanwhile, the Telekom Austria Group launched its ‘SIM Box Detection Service’ in February 2013, which protects against all types of SIM box fraud based on the operator’s global testing infrastructure.

From the IT manager perspective, the communications fraud issue is one with wider implications across the communications platform, and safety locks need to be in place on the IP network, network equipment, and the devices and handsets being used by the workforce.  If an IP PBX is being dialed repeatedly, then this could be a hacking attempt not just to penetrate the phone system, but to enter the IP network where data can then be exposed for criminal use.  In addition to dialog with your service provider, IT managers can also turn to a number of industry organizations for help and advice, including FIINA, SATA, AICEP, and the CFCA.

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