Financial e-Crime on the Rise

Financial e-Crime on the Rise Share

The huge uptake of online and mobile banking in the last decade has allowed a new type of crime to take hold in the finance industry. Historically, financial e-crime was characterised by low-level attacks on random bank accounts, but it has now developed into large scale assaults on financial databases containing thousands of customer account details.

The information is often sold on, making this a multi-level crime with potentially huge returns for those involved. Financial Fraud Action UK reports that £35.9 million was lost to internet and telephone banking fraud during the first half of 2014, a rise of 59 per cent.

Two high-profile incidents that demonstrate the devastating effects of cyber attacks occurred on US soil:

Black Friday attack, 2013

A prime example of a high-level attack occurred on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Hackers were able to copy the credit card details of more than 40 million shoppers in 2,000 Target retail stores across the United States.

Citigroup, 2011

In 2011 the US bank, Citigroup, saw $2.7 million lost to hackers who were able to steal money from around 3,400 customer accounts.

How can these attacks be avoided?

Staff training

It’s possible for cyber criminals to gain access to banking systems via links which are clicked on by unknowing members of staff. Training is a simple and effective way to prevent this type of attack. It has also been suggested that mock attacks would raise staff awareness of cyber crime, including the characteristics of these ‘bad’ links.

Identifying breaches in security

It used to be enough to deploy a strong, complex firewall to prevent unauthorised access, but this is no longer sufficient in the financial industry. Identifying when someone has gained access to a network is vital in being able to meet the threat. Once intruders are in, they are often able to stay there for some time, gathering valuable information.

Extra protection for the most sensitive information

Banks need to allocate extra protection for their most important information, developing a graded or layered security system. Classifying their information in this way helps to allocate resources to protect business-critical data.


The British Bankers’ Association (BBA) has introduced a system whereby information is pooled by national and international businesses, government institutions and worldwide crime agencies to provide real-time alerts to banks.

(Reed Business School, 05/08/2015)

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