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Top 10 Cybercrime and Online Fraud predictions for 2020

As a decade of online fraud fighting is drawing to a close, it’s time to think about the next decade! Fraudsters were very busy this decade, coming up with an ever expanding bag of tricks, and we should expect them to give all of us good reasons to continue the fight. So – here are my top ten cybercrime and online fraud predictions for 2020:

  • Deep fake technology will be used for identity theft: Deep fake technology that spoofs the human voice is already being used to attack call centers, or in business email compromise scams. In 2020, we should see the early signs of deep fake being used to defeat face recognition controls, including those using state of the art liveliness tests. The industry will have to come up with silent, behind-the-scenes controls that can offset the vulnerabilities of overt biometric authentication.
  • LiFi networks will be targeted by hackers: There’s a new, promising high-speed Internet technology in town, and it’s visible light based rather than radio wave based. While reaching full commercial use is still a few years away, and the tech is limited to proximity use given physical limitations on light movement, a network based on LiFi should be as hackable as WiFi, and might be more prone to physical interferences. We should see the first demonstrations of LiFi hacks in the new year.
  • UK identity databases will come under attack by fraudsters: Multiple factors will drive criminals that target the UK financial sector to boost their Account Opening Fraud activities; the success banks have in fighting traditional fraud, the introduction of tighter controls over social engineering, and the coming implementation of PSD2 all make account takeover harder for them. To facilitate this expected boost, hackers will focus their attention on UK identity databases, attempting to get multiple data points on each UK citizen in a similar fashion to what had been the state in the US in the last few years.
  • ID Mules: In the US, synthetic identity fraud is the fastest growing type of financial crime, with an average charge-off balance per instance of $15,000, according to a Federal Reserve study. With the newly launched Social Security Administration real-time verification of social security number vs other personal details, synthetic ID scams as we know it will have to change; the long-term criminal response would probably be using identity mules. Those are essentially ‘identities for hire’ – real people who wish to boost their credit score, new-to-credit users like students and immigrants who wish to build a good FICO score, etc. They’ll knowingly or unknowingly give their identity to cyber criminals, and they would build the credit file alright – but then use it to open fake accounts. The result may be quite similar to the current synthetic ID schemes but based on a completely legit starting point.
  • FinTech companies will be fraudsters’ next big target: While banks and credit card issuers in the US have been stepping up their defenses against account opening and  account takeover fraud, the fintech sector, which has largely escaped the wrath of fraudsters, will begin to see a sharp increase in online fraud. Because they are less heavily regulated, fintech companies are more agile and able to introduce new functionalities. However, the lack of proper defenses and the fact that they have no access to the banking sector’s fraud consortium databases will make them far more exposed.
  • Chatbot and voice assistance payment fraud will rise: Many financial institutions are beginning to deploy AI-based customer assistance tools, such as chatbots and voice based interfaces, to broaden their offerings beyond traditional online and mobile channels. As soon as those new channels begin to offer full functionality – say, move money from a user’s account – they’ll be targeted by criminals and will need to be protected against account takeover. Researchers have already proven that lasers can be used to spoof voice commands in physical voice assistance devices, and it would be even easier to attack their virtual equivalents.
  • AI will help prevent subscription services fraud: The big content streaming companies have formed an alliance designed to fight password sharing and criminal offerings of compromised passwords. Unfortunately, device-based and location-based controls are no longer holding as technologies to spoof devices and geo-location are readily available. New technologies such as behavioral biometrics and unsupervised anomaly detection AI will prove to fare much better against misuse of subscription services.  
  • Zelle fraud levels will surge: As many regional banks and credit unions are adding Zelle P2P capabilities to their online and mobile banking, criminals are beginning to single out the US as a new land of opportunities. Well-proven social engineering techniques are already in use, and attacks will escalate and quickly adapt as new controls are added – with the result of real users suffering from higher friction while fraud levels surge.
  • Selfie biometric data will be the new dark web money maker: There’s already a vibrant dark web trade in personalized biometric data, and that will continue to grow in 2020. More websites and applications are turning to selfie-based verification and more online account opening flows are moving from obsolete controls, such as Knowledge Based Authentication, to more modern controls, like selfie-document matching. Some criminals will focus on collecting data from open sources and social media. Others will target – and already have targeted – users in phishing campaigns designed to steal not just static credentials, but also selfies and videos of the user’s face. Another threat is that advanced malware capabilities, which are currently in the hands of state sponsored actors and other high-end players, will find their way to criminal hands and be used to break into mobile device authentication.
  • Money mules will become an endangered species: In an era of easy account opening fraud, why spend resources and take unnecessary risks by interacting with mules? Money mules won’t go away in 2020, but criminals engaged in cashing out compromised bank accounts will begin shifting away from classic recruitment options and start using falsely opened bank accounts instead. The ease of fraudulent account opening will also help other crimes, such as money laundering and impersonating the receiving end of P2P money transfers like Zelle.


That’s it. Do you have any predictions for 2020 and beyond? Please share :)


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Uri Rivner

Uri Rivner

Chief Cyber Officer


Member since

14 Apr 2008


Tel Aviv

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