Pros and Cons
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Are you sure you really know who we are?  Yes, this page may look like Ballou’s…but are you sure?

We’ve been thinking about fraud.  What prompted it? Probably Christmas shopping triggering a million requests to double check our bank details, passwords, security log-ins, and also the fact that we’ve just achieved the Cyber Essentials standard and we’re bringing our French and German teams up to UK standard.

When we all spend so much time thinking about fraud it’s no wonder that films like The Wolf of Wall Street, Catch Me If You Can and podcasts like the brilliant The Missing Crypto-Queen, about the OneCoin case, appeal to audiences.

But what makes the con such a fascinating crime to us?  The glamour of Ocean’s Eleven and George Clooney in a tux breaking a casino is a long way from the grubby world of credit card fraud, where stolen card numbers are sold on carding forums.  So is it the vicarious thrill in enjoying the skill of the con knowing we’re not damaged in any way, whereas in reality even if the attack is thwarted and nothing is actually taken from us, or we’re insured, fraud still take hours of admin in re-setting passwords, cancelling cards and a vague sense of unease that we’ve been violated in some way?

Over the last couple of years we’ve had TSB coping with an IT problem meltdown that locked two million customers out of their accounts and triggered fraud attacks on thousands, and an attack on HBOS when consultants linked with the company’s turnaround unit exploited a weak spot and stole hundreds of thousands of pounds amongst many others.  In fact, according to Fraud The Facts 2019*, scammers stole £1.2bn from UK bank customers in 2018, with a near-500% leap in counterfeit cheque fraud (a return to old school techniques).

And it’s hitting business like never before, with factories being the newest target.  Back in the summer, Norwegian global aluminium producer Norsk Hydro, a global aluminium producer was held to ransom by a hack that hit 22,000 computers across 170 different sites in 40 different countries.  The entire workforce was reduced to pen and paper as without paying the ransom (which the company refused to do) the organisation’s system was locked and only the hackers held the code to reactivate it. It cost the company £45m. Norsk Hydro is unusual in that it talked about the attack.  It is believed that thousands of companies have been hit in a similar way but have quietly paid up to avoid damage to their reputation.

The fightback is fierce, obviously; indeed we work with security companies Cloudflare and OpenXchange in the UK.   But just like celebrating gangsters enrages their victims, those that pay the human cost, maybe we need an attitudinal shift with fraud too.  We need to recognise there’s no glamour or bravado in hacking and cons. It’s simply being mugged by someone with a keyboard and few scruples.

* https://www.ukfinance.org.uk/policy-and-guidance/reports-publications/fraud-facts-2019