By Katia Gonzalez Gutierrez, head of fraud prevention operations and services at BICS
Roaming fraud is a growing problem that is costing the industry over $6 billion each year across the globe according to the Communications Fraud Control Association (CFCA). This is in addition to domestic telecoms fraud which is still the biggest threat facing mobile service providers and is estimated to be costing the industry $3.75 billion (Euro 3.3 billion) each year [CFCA 2015 Global Fraud Loss Survey].
As an international problem, the prevention of telecoms fraud is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry. Telco operators across the globe have to fight increasingly sophisticated attacks from opportunistic criminals alongside the traditional, well known types of fraud such as international revenue share fraud (artificially inflated traffic to mobile numbers), PBX hacking, SIM card cloning and Wangiri (where end users are duped into calling premium rate numbers from automated missed calls or spam SMS messages).
As technology develops, fraudsters have learnt to adapt their attacks. Roaming fraud is a popular target for criminals as the next generation risks and vulnerabilities associated with roaming are often where operators are most exposed.
Plus, roaming frauds tend to take longer to identify than traditional international fraud and domestically originating fraud. Even a few hours delay allows huge amounts of traffic to pass through the network, causing significant revenue loss; reportedly up to Euro 400,000 over a weekend in one incident [CFCA 2015 Global Fraud Loss Survey].
Moving to all-IP networks has changed the fraud landscape and enabled hackers to increase their efficiency, the speed in which they make their attacks, and their ability to exploit operators. The increasing amount of IP-enabled equipment has unfortunately improved the accessibility for fraudsters.
In addition to the monetary losses suffered by operators, roaming fraud stands to affect the delicate customer relationship which is a key component to a successful business. In an industry that is as competitive as telecoms, acquiring and retaining customers is a top priority. When a threat to damage an operator’s reputation is made, prevention becomes the main concern.
With the telecoms ecosystem as mature as it is, new streams of revenue for monetisation are becoming increasingly difficult to find. With margins squeezed by a competitive marketplace, operators are increasingly focused on revenue leaks to maintain profits.
Telecoms fraud is not a new problem, but the true scale is uncertain. Operators have not readily divulged their vulnerabilities or details of fraudulent attacks for fear of increasing customer churn.
Lately however, operators have started to realise that proactivity and collaboration are key in the fight against fraud. Once fraudulent activity is detected, operators are able to blacklist it and monitor for related traffic to detect similar trends elsewhere on the network, and by sharing this information, the illegal activity can then either be blocked by the carrier’s wholesale provider or through a firewall located in its own infrastructure.
Wholesale carriers are in the ideal position to monitor attacks and analyse anonymised data from incidents around the world. If all the data on fraudulent activity is shared among the operators, they will be able to proactively protect themselves against these criminals and help others in their fight against telecoms fraud.
BICS is recognised in the wholesale communications market as a top global voice carrier and the leading provider of mobile data services.