Soaring rates of cybercrime pushes value of UK fraud above £1 billion

New technologies and cybercrime have contributed to UK fraud breaking the £1 billion barrier for the first time since 2011.

According to professional services company KPMG, cyber-enabled fraud rose by 1266% compared to 2015 figures.

As an example of the kind of criminality that has contributed to the dramatic rise in cybercrime, the company pointed to an attack that saw £113 million stolen for bank customers who, thanks to the sophisticated nature of the attack, were unable to make or receive calls while their accounts were being drained.

The fraudsters made between £1 million and £2 million a week at the scam’s peak and operated like a nine-to-five business using information from corrupt bank insiders.

“Both public and private organisations openly acknowledge that cyber attacks are one of the most prevalent and high-impact risks they face, and yet many operate on the basis ‘it won’t happen to me’,” says Hitesh N Patel, UK Forensic Partner at KPMG.

“Organisations must keep abreast of the cyber threats, both physical and digital, to ensure the protection mechanisms don’t become obsolete given the pace of technology and business change. You can have variety of IT protections in place to defend yourself, but it’s all for nothing if you are tricked into giving away the keys to the electronic vault.”

KPMG’s Fraud Barometer also identified an emerging trend of consumers carrying out tech-enabled theft driven by a hunger to maintain a comfortable lifestyle on a low budget.

The professional services firm highlighted one case where a 51-year-old man was jailed for six years for masterminding a £60m fraud to supply free cable TV using illicit set-top boxes.

With the aid of five accomplices, the man imported boxes from Asia and bypassed their encryption in order to allow people to watch a cable TV service without a legitimate subscription.  He promoted the business on internet forums and via his own website.

“Through the rapid rise of technology and online platforms, more people than ever are being targeted by fraudsters who have unrestricted access to a larger pool of victims.  However, we are also seeing the internet being used by consumers who are being tempted to obtain goods and services that they have, or perhaps should have, a fair idea are not legitimate,” said Patel.

“Consumers may often turn a blind eye, or consider this a victimless crime, but these cases show individual victims who ended up paying a high price with their wellbeing.  In addition, this shadow economy activity, which directly promotes money laundering and tax evasion, often help funds other more serious organised criminal enterprises, including human trafficking, drug smuggling and terrorism.”


Chelsea Manning: Obama rights a wrong before leaving office

With only days to remaining on his second term, President Obama has agreed to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who will now be released from prison on 17 May 2017.

Manning entered military custody in 2010, and was set to serve a 35 year sentence for passing more than 700,000 classified documents and videos to Wikileaks.

“Chelsea deserves her freedom, and the world’s respect, for her courageous, inspiring actions in 2010. Chelsea’s releases through WikiLeaks helped bring an end to the US war on Iraq, galvanised Arab Spring protesters and inspired subsequent truthtellers,” said Sarah Harrison, acting director of the Courage Foundation, a legal defence group that’s backed Manning.

“Chelsea should also be admired for the way she has drawn international attention to battles for transgender rights and against prison abuse, in some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable.”

Manning’s original sentence of 35 years was the longest ever attached to her crime, and her experiences in detention included having to endure torturous solitary confinement, which included being locked up alone for 23 hours a day over an 11-month period.

Since Manning’s incarceration in 2010, she revealed that she identifies as a woman (Manning had previously been known as Bradley Manning), however her gender dysphoria went unacknowledged, and Manning remained in an all-male facility.

In the past year Manning attempted suicide twice, but rather than provide psychological care, the Army responded to Chelsea’s attempt by punishing her with a week in solitary confinement.

“Obama may well have just saved Chelsea Manning’s life. Freeing her is clearly and unambiguously the right thing to do, and not just for the obvious humanitarian reasons, though those are absolutely compelling,” said Harrison.

Manning’s release has been celebrated by fellow whisteblower Edward Snowden, who tweeted his thanks to President Obama, and by Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, whose site reposted a statement from the first day of Manning’s trial, which Assange claimed was “show trial” where “the verdict was ordained long ago.”

A week ago, Wikileaks also tweeted, “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case.”

However, it is unclear at this point whether Assange will stand by this commitment.