Stopping telecoms fraud in its tracks – new cybersecurity strategies for preventing an ongoing problem
By Tara Neal
September 28, 2018
Oculeus is headed by Arnd Baranowski, Chief Executive Officer and the man behind the company. Arnd has over thirty years of technical and software development experience, initially in the military and then a successful track record of developing OSS and BSS systems for the telecommunications industry.
With mounting concerns on the susceptibility of today’s telecommunications networks to cyber-related telecoms fraud attacks, telcos and network operators as well as enterprises are looking for solutions that can help them to be better protected against telecoms fraud and the financial damage it causes. Tara Neal, the Executive Editor of The Fast Mode spoke to Arnd Baranowski, CEO at Oculeus, ahead of the launch of the company’s new telecoms fraud protection service on how it can equip telcos, network operators and enterprises with the tools necessary to take on the growing complexities of protecting against telecoms fraud.
Tara Neal: Why do stories of telecoms fraud continue to capture headlines?
Arnd Baranowski: The unfortunate truth is that telecoms fraud is an attractive business for cybercriminals.
Take for instance the example of PBX hacking, which is one of the most common forms of telecoms fraud and easiest to execute. PBX devices are known to be susceptible to hacking and PBX lines are relatively straightforward to hijack.
Hundreds of hours of fraudulent traffic can be injected to a business’ PBX lines without the business or its telecommunications service provider being aware. Generally speaking, the business only finds out about the fraudulent traffic attack well after it has been completed and often only when it sees the charges on its monthly invoice from its service provider. In the meantime, the fraudsters have made off with tens of thousands of dollars and moved on to the next victim.
Statistics are readily available across the internet from numerous industry sources showing that telecoms fraud is causing financial damage of over $20 billion a year!
Tara Neal: Even though the problem has been constant over the years, has telecoms fraud changed or at least evolved recently?
Arnd Baranowski: Yes, telecoms fraud has certainly evolved over time and in recent years the developments have mostly been in parallel to the new networking infrastructure technologies used by telecommunications service providers.
Many years ago, when telecommunications networks were based on mostly physical infrastructure, being part of the infrastructure was required to redirect and manipulate traffic for fraudulent purposes.
As IP-based telephony gained traction, telecoms fraud has transitioned over the past ten years or so into more of a cybersecurity issue.
Recently, SIP has become a standard protocol for IP-based voice communications. While this SIP protocol offers improved networking and integration capabilities, fraudsters have learned how to leverage security vulnerabilities to inject fraudulent traffic.
Tara Neal: Have telcos been doing enough to keep pace with these changes?
Arnd Baranowski: Here too there is an unfortunate reality.
Perpetrators of telecoms fraud are highly skilled cybercriminals using the most advanced and up-to-date technologies to quickly identify vulnerabilities and execute lucrative telecoms fraud.
On the other hand, telcos and network operators are well behind. From what we see, the fraud management practices of telcos and network operators generally follow slow moving processes that often involve manual input and cross-department interactions.
Tara Neal: At what level would you say businesses are exposed to telecoms fraud?
Arnd Baranowski: Clearly, businesses are highly exposed and are also in a vulnerable position.
This should be worrisome for enterprises because it is not clear who is responsible for telecoms fraud protection. In some countries, like here in Germany where Oculeus is based, the telecommunications service provider is responsible for providing fraud protection. However, the situation in Germany is more of an exception as in most places there is no clear understanding of who is responsible. Often, the business is required to prove that the charges from fraudulent traffic are indeed false. This is a time consuming and an expensive process that certainly can be avoided.
Tara Neal: What does Oculeus have to offer to improve telecoms fraud prevention?
Arnd Baranowski: We offer telecoms fraud protection solutions in two directions.
First, we provide a solution directly to telecommunications service providers and network operators that is based on anomaly detection. What we provide with this solution is an automated framework that requires just a few seconds to identify, confirm and block fraudulent telecommunications traffic. The system works very much like any other cybersecurity system based on anomaly detection.
We are also currently finalizing the roll out of a new telecoms fraud protection service that we will be offering directly to enterprises. This service will be based on our telecoms fraud protection solution running in the Cloud and will be very similar to an antivirus system. The service will allow an enterprise to protect its telecommunications network independent of its telecommunications service provider.
Tara Neal: This is an interesting approach. What are your expectations for this new service?
Arnd Baranowski: We are very excited about the upcoming launch of our telecoms fraud protection service.
Basically, any enterprise – large and small and everything in between – that has PBX systems running is a potential customer and can benefit from our new service. The service should be ready to be rolled out by the end of next month.
Pricing will be in the form of a monthly fee derived from the number of PBX devices being connected to the service. The registration process will be done online and will only take a minute or two to complete. After this short registration, our service will begin protecting the enterprise’s voice communications with no impact on the speed or quality of the existing voice communications.
For more information, visit the Oculeus website.
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