Skip to main content
Smash and Grab

When the news of last week’s £240 million attempted robbery of Sumitomo Mitsui bank first broke, I was, by coincidence, on my way to the office of our National Hi-tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) at a secret address, behind a Chinese laundry in London’s Docklands. In fact, I was there to discuss the programme for next month’s eCrime Congress and it wasn’t long before those of us around the table started commenting on the remarkable similarity between the Sumitomo attempt and the first workshop scenario for the congress.


"He looks suspicious to me"

Meanwhile, back in the world of television news, speculation was rife as journalists attempted to tease-out the true details of the case, which haven’t been released for operational reasons, with a firm “No Comment” from the NHTCU. Elsewhere, security companies were busy leaping on the bandwagon, offering TV interviews and alarmist ammunition to the press. My favourite is from Mi2G, which swiftly described, “The global economic damage from all types of digital risk including overt and covert digital attacks, malware incidence, phishing scams, DDoS and spam is estimated to lie between USD 470 billion and USD 578 billion for 2004, more than double the damage calculated for 2003.”

The Sumitomo example, as you may have heard me say on the BBC or Channel 4 News serves as a salutary lesson to any organisation and not just banks, that investing in perimeter defence against Internet threats while necessary and sensible, does little or nothing to mitigate the equal risk presented by an informed and technically capable “insider.”

Contrary to what the Internet security industry, now worth over $20 billion a year, might argue, Sumitomo looks very much like an old crime, raiding the company cashbox, significantly enhanced and assisted by new technology, in this case a keylogger.

A company may attempt to protect itself by taking careful references and have processes that minimise the risk of fraud but it happens all the time. In my local paper, a woman has just been convicted of stealing £10,000 from her employer. She had opportunity and ability because she worked in the accounts department and wrote out the cheques. As it’s only £10,000 she escaped jail but six figure embezzlement cases in the City happen regularly and one wonders if the Sumitomo fraudster would have been caught if he or she had simply attempted to steal £1 million and not £240 million?

In the eCrime Congress scenario, a criminal gang infiltrates a legitimate IT contractor tasked with upgrading the company’s systems from Windows NT to Windows 2000. They install key logging software on ostensibly secure systems and then wait for an opportunity to transfer large sums of money to a series of waiting accounts in countries where fraud and eCrime legislation is at its weakest.

In fundamental terms, the company in the example has outsourced both its migration and its risk to a third-party, which doesn’t need to “hack” through the perimeter firewall because it is already inside and carrying all the necessary credentials to “own” the organisation.

While its topical to go a little “overboard” when discussing the corporate risk presented by hackers and identity theft, organisations of every size need to grasp the message that while technology acts as a business enabler, it also enables crooked employees to rob a company blind more easily than at any time in human history and that if and they do the level of personal risk is rather more attractive than using a JCB to steal a cash point or even holding up the Northern Bank.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…
The Mandate of Heaven

eGov Monitor Version

“Parliament”, said my distinguished friend “has always leaked like a sieve”.

I’m researching the thorny issue of ‘Confidence in Public Sector Computing’ and we were discussing the dangers presented by the Internet. In his opinion, information security is an oxymoron, which has no place being discussed in a Parliament built upon the uninterrupted flow of information of every kind, from the politically sensitive to the most salacious and mundane.

With the threat of war hanging over us, I asked if MPs should be more aware of the risks that surround this new communications medium? More importantly, shouldn’t the same policies and precautions that any business might use to protect itself and its staff, be available to MPs?

What concerns me is that my well-respected friend mostly considers security in terms of guns, gates and guards. He now uses the Internet almost as much as he uses the telephone and the Fax machine and yet the growing collective t…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.


In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …