Cyber crime is on the rise. With the Queen recently opening a National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) intended to keep the UK safe from hackers, there’s no doubt the issue is being taken seriously. This move comes after reports that over the 12 months up to June 2016, the UK was hit by more than five million fraudulent and computer misuse incidents — making online fraud the most common crime in the country. And the problem isn’t restricted to the UK; by 2020 card-not-present fraud in the US is expected to reach $7 billion.
So what’s driving the spike in digital criminality and could emerging technologies hold the key to tackling it?
Internet of Things
As Philip Hammond recently stated in an article for The Telegraph: “today even your kettle can be targeted by cyber criminals.” The vast Internet of Things (IoT) network that allows us to remotely switch off the oven and shop on the move using smart devices, has also built new inroads for fraudsters. For example, in 2016 an attack led by devices on web translation service Dyn prevented many users from accessing social media sites like Twitter and major publishers, such as The Financial Times.
It’s therefore not surprising that opinions on connectivity are conflicting; according to a survey by AVG and the Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF) 90% of consumers think the IoT adds value to their lives, but over half are concerned about potential security risks.
Digital advertising too has become a magnet for online criminals. Indeed, as shown by the well-publicised ‘Methbot’ scandal — where fraudsters around the world used fake ad views and websites to siphon off up to $5 billion per day — the issue affects all global markets. It’s estimated that last year alone, such non-human traffic (created by bots emulating consumer interactions with ads) cost brands more than $7.2 billion in lost ad revenue; nearly $1 billion more than in 2015.
Yet when a new threat rises, both the consumer and advertising technology industry have a reputation for rising to meet it rapidly — and cyber crime is no exception.
At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), several security firms — such as Intel, Symantec and BitDefender — revealed rooters specifically designed to protect IoT homes by analysing incoming data and checking for suspicious activity. In the US, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has launched a competition inviting the public and budding start-up businesses to build a tool that addresses gaps in IoT device security, such as outdated software (with a top cash prize of $25,000). And in the UK, the NCSC has already successfully detected and blocked 34,550 attempts to access consumer data held by UK Government departments.
Adtech fighting fraud
On the adtech side, there are innovations aplenty aimed at fighting fraud. Integral Ad Science (IAS), for example, uses a combination of big data and session-based signals to track ad fraud right down to the impression level. Crucially, it does so in real-time, thereby ensuring that any potentially bogus impressions are removed before they have a chance to make their way into the system. This is a method also deployed by OpenX, which assesses ad quality before inventory enters its exchange so that bad ads are filtered out and risk to buyers is minimised.
Of course, the battle against fraud is ongoing: as our dependence on interconnected tech increases, it’s likely that fraudsters will find new loopholes through which they can reach consumers and advertisers. But this only makes it more vital for industry leaders to keep closing them. By making security by design a key part of their digital strategy, staying vigilant and constantly working to develop innovative anti-fraud solutions, technology providers can help make the web a safer, crime-free place for all.
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