100-plus arrests made in UK’s biggest-ever counter fraud operation

AN INTERNATIONAL one-stop spoofing shop has been taken down in what is the UK’s biggest-ever counter fraud operation led by the Metropolitan Police Service. More than 200,000 potential victims in this country alone have been directly targeted through the fraud website iSpoof. At one stage, almost 20 people every minute of the day were being contacted by scammers using the site and hiding behind false identities.

The scammers posed as representatives of banks including Barclays, Santander, HSBC, Lloyds, Halifax, First Direct, NatWest, Nationwide and TSB. Scotland Yard’s Cyber Crime Unit worked with international law enforcement, including authorities in the US and Ukraine, to dismantle the website. This was a crucial phase in a worldwide operation, which has now been running out of the public eye since June last year in targeting a suspected organised crime group.

iSpoof enabled criminals to appear as if they were calling from banks, tax offices and other official bodies as they attempted to defraud victims. Those victims are believed to have lost tens of millions of pounds, while those behind the site earned almost £3.2 million in one 20-month period.

Detective Superintendent Helen Rance, who leads on cyber crime for the Metropolitan Police Service, explained: “By taking down iSpoof, we have prevented further offences and stopped fraudsters targeting future victims. Our message to criminals who have used this website is that we have your details and are working hard to locate you, regardless of where you are.”

Metropolitan Police Service Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley commented: “The exploitation of technology by organised criminals is one of the greatest challenges for law enforcement in the 21st Century. Together with the support of partners across UK policing and internationally, we are reinventing the way in which fraud is investigated. The Metropolitan Police Service is targeting the criminals at the centre of these illicit webs that cause misery for thousands.”

Rowley added: “By taking away the tools and systems that have enabled fraudsters to cheat innocent people at scale, this operation shows precisely how we are determined to target corrupt individuals intent on exploiting often vulnerable victims.”

Control Risks forecasts “deep set of risks” for businesses in 2023

BUSINESSES WILL face a historically broad and deep set of risks in 2023, posing interconnected and existential threats across geographies and sectors. That’s according to specialist risk consultancy Control Risks.

Launching its annual Risk Map forecast featuring the foremost for business, Control Risks has pointed to a combination of fractious geopolitics, armed conflict, disrupted energy systems, economic strife and disarray in digital networks during the coming year, with cyber risk at the top of the agenda.

In 2023, we can expect the emergence of a fundamental breakdown of global networks into distinct regional or even national architectures, caused by the ‘weaponisation’ of cyber space and a clash of national interests. The ambition of operating a single, global network will be significantly challenged.

Enabled by an expanded attack surface and a significant increase in automation across the entire spectrum of cyber threats, the cyber arms race will accelerate in 2023. In parallel to this ‘weaponisation’, nation states are looking to exert more control over what some have already defined as their national cyber space. Network and system resilience will be tested like never before.

Fragmenting world order

Nick Allan, CEO at Control Risks CEO, asserted: “In the fragmenting world order, the weapons of choice for many states will be found in the cyber sphere. This will either be through the spread of disinformation, aided by improving deepfake technology, or through cyber attacks or both.”

As a business operating in both the geopolitical and cyber arenas, Control Risks can see very clearly the direct correlation between geopolitical tensions and cyber aggression. “An element of uncertainty and fear provides a level of state-versus-state deterrence,” observed Allan, “but corporates find themselves as easier targets for proxy and real wars. This is made worse by the transfer of military-grade cyber capabilities to criminal or radicalised groups.”

Further, Allan explained: “2023 will see more geopolitical and economic volatility accompanied by operational challenges in energy and digital networks. The increasingly apparent effects of a changing climate will add additional stresses and strains. Resilience, insight and courage will be the watchwords for business in the year ahead.”

Supporting the top risks for 2023 is a new map, the Global Risk Forecast. This shows an holistic business risk rating for the countries of the world that draws on a selection of risks. The composite score includes Control Risks’ political, security, operational, regulatory, cyber and integrity risks and encompasses a range of environmental, social and corporate governance-related risks.

Each rating reflects Control Risks’ outlook for overall risks to business to the end of 2023, taking into account known or anticipated trends and developments that could impact the business environment.

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