Threats just love to ride the coattails of new opportunities.
For example, mobile banking has made financial transactions easier in wealthier countries while opening bank access for many in those countries who need assistance. But along with these opportunities, of course, mobile banking brings with it some challenges. Specifically, the industry currently faces the possibility of theft through SIM card swapping.
SIM swapping is a relatively new crime where criminals take over a customer’s mobile phone number by having it moved to a SIM card in their possession in order to acquire security messages and one-time passwords sent to the consumer by the bank. In this way, the heart of a phone and its private information can be transferred to another phone without the victim knowing their phone has been compromised.
Although the trick respects no borders, one country that has been particularly prone to SIM swapping scams in South Africa. Vodaphone has even warned that SIM swap fraud is on the rise there.
“Once they have acquired the victim's banking details and other personal information through phishing scams, the fraudsters then call the network operator posing as the customer and request a SIM swap,” explained a company representative in one report.
“This will cancel the customer's SIM connection and the fraudsters will have access to the customer's cellphone line,” the rep added, as well as “enable the fraudsters to receive the customer's one time Internet banking password – allowing them to perform fraudulent transactions.”
This has clearly called for the industry to develop new methods to combat the threat of SIM swap theft.
In light of this, Santander, a Spanish financial group, recently won a banking technology award for its SIM swapping solution developed with Adeptra, now a part of analytics firm, FICO. Santander and Adeptra won the 2012 Banking Technology Award for Best Security Initiative for its SIM swapping solution, and it is currently in use with Santander’s UK operations.
“The security of a bank is the top priority when customers choose who to bank with,” Karen Tyler, head of fraud operations for Santander UK, said in a statement.“Customers want a secure account, but they do not want to be inconvenienced. The solution we developed with Adeptra is invisible to the customer, but offers better protection, improving the customer experience.”
For example, Vodacom (News - Alert) says it notifies customers via SMS whenever a SIM swap attempt is made.
“Customers who receive the SMS, but have not requested a SIM swap, should alert Vodacom about the fraudulent SIM swap request by calling customer care,” the company explained in said report.
But just alerting customers has unfortunately proven to not be enough. The company reports that criminals have even gone so far as to call customers and try to convince them to switch their phones off for an extended period of time or to ignore the alert SMS if it comes as an attempt to bypass simple alerts such as that used by Vodaphone.
With the stakes so high, both criminals and the financial industry are stepping up to win the battle; however, only time will tell who will win.
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Edited by Allison Boccamazzo