$41bn fraud losses ‘to hit mobile industry’ by 2024

$41bn fraud losses ‘to hit mobile industry’ by 2024

11 June 2021 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Mobile operators are set to see revenue losses of US$41 billion due to security breaches and fraud, according to a new report.

Operators are facing an unprecedented level of complexity in their networks, says Kaleido Intelligence in its new report, Mobile Network Fraud and Security Outlook 2021.

This is due to the need to support multiple insecure, legacy signalling protocols in addition to a rapidly increasing connection base and architectural convergence between mobile and IT networks.

Steffen Sorrell, research lead at Kaleido, noted: Holistic security oversight in addition to automation is fundamental to addressing the security challenges that IoT, 5G, network slicing and edge computing present.”

While Covid-19 has shifted the landscape somewhat, due to far lower than normal levels of roaming, a return to travel demand in addition to migration towards 5G will signal challenging times ahead for operators, said Kaleido.

Alongside other factors, security at the interconnect has meant that roaming fraud has accounted for a large proportion of revenue loss for operators. The effects of Covid-19 have altered this trend, with losses due to attacks such as international revenue share fraud and other voice fraud falling by 11% in 2020, according to Kaleido.

With travel restrictions continuing, this type of fraud is set to decline further this year.

To counter this reduced opportunity, cybercriminals have shifted their tactics to target consumers directly: Kaleido found that social engineering attacks designed to dupe consumers into revealing sensitive personal information or clicking malicious links were a key factor in driving fraud during 2020.

The net result of this is that overall security and fraud losses directly attributable to operators fell by 8% in 2020.

Sorrell said: “It is inevitable that cybercriminals view this trend as an opportunity. Operators are undoubtedly aware of this, but are hamstrung by constrained budgets and a need to achieve [return] on their 5G investment.”

The research found that mobile networks are reaching unprecedented levels of complexity, which will only increase as IoT connections balloon and migration to 5G is completed.

Inherently weak signalling protocols are set to remain in use for several years, said Kaleido: “These weaknesses are often exploited to carry out attacks over other signalling protocols and [this] requires a holistic view of signalling and security events by the operator.”

Kaleido found that most operators neither have this holistic capability, nor are their fraud and security systems capable of managing future challenges that will be imposed on their networks into the near-term.