Networked bot attacks target media, financial entities

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Bot attack volumes grew 41% year over year, while human-initiated were 29% down. This was most notable in the APAC and LATAM regions, with EMEA experiencing the smallest growth.

These were some of the findings of LexisNexis Risk Solutions’ latest Cybercrime Report, which covers the first half of 2021. The report notes that the financial services and media industries are bearing the brunt of automated bot network attacks.

According to LexisNexis, automation, identity spoofing, device spoofing, and social engineering have all grown in recent months as cyber criminals have identified new targets and adjusted their attack profiles accordingly.

As consumer behaviour has shifted to accommodate large-scale restrictions to products and services, brought about by the pandemic, so have bad actors evolved their tactics, the company says.

This pivot is most apparent in the dramatic growth in bots targeting organisations by testing stolen identity credentials on businesses that usually have fewer security layers, to either set up new accounts, or access existing ones.

A shift to digital

The Cybercrime Report is an analysis of transaction data from the LexisNexis Digital Identity Network − a solution that helps detect and block fraud. Its customer identifier LexId Digital, provides a 360-degree view of customers by merging offline and online data in near real time to establish true digital identities. The company says it detects synthetic and stolen identities as well as unusual behavior such as location anomalies, new e-mail addresses originating from the same device, or new shipping addresses.

It analysed 28.7 billion transactions over the six-month period, up 28% year on year. The first half of 2021 saw geographical shifts in attack volumes observed across transactions occurring within the Digital Identity Network.

The report also highlighted how industry innovations have altered risk profiles. The online payment market continues to proliferate and diversify. For example, buy-now-pay later (BNPL) services and digital wallets are growing in popularity as a payment method, with BNPL transactions growing 182% year-over-year.

“This growth is likely to continue as it caters to the increasing population of consumers who are transacting more online. However, it also creates new avenues of attack for cyber criminals,” the company warns.

In addition, the report showed that financial services institutions found new ways of tracking money mules.

“Advances in beneficiary intelligence within the Digital Identity Network are making it less complicated for banks and other payment service providers to track payment transfers involved in money mule activity. This includes when the beneficiary tries to hide their tracks by splitting the initial payment and routing it via other entities in the payment network.”

Growth in transactions, users

Stephen Topliss, VP of fraud and identity for LexisNexis Risk Solutions, says the report not only confirms attackers’ reliance on automated processes, it shines the spotlight on how bad actors are further establishing sophisticated and expansive networks to conduct their illicit activities.

“Explosive transaction and user growth rates in industry sectors such as virtual banks and buy-now-pay-later are likely exposing emergent risks for these newer businesses as they grab the attention of fraudsters. The digital businesses that survive and thrive will be those that deploy layered cyber crime prevention solutions as they scale,” he says.

The Cybercrime Report is an analysis of transaction data from the LexisNexis Digital Identity Network. 

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