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LexisNexis reveals opportunities and risks for EMEA in online channels during pandemic

16 September 2020

LEXISNEXIS RISK Solutions has published its latest biannual Cyber Crime Report tracking global cyber crime activity from January through until June this year. The report dives deep into how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the global digital economy, regional economies, industries, businesses and consumer behaviour.

The period has seen strong transaction volume growth compared to 2019, it would appear, but an overall decline in global attack volume. This is likely linked to growth in genuine customer activity due to changing consumer habits.

The LexisNexis Risk Solutions Cyber Crime Report analyses data from more than 22.5 billion transactions processed by the LexisNexis Digital Identity Network, representing a 37% growth year-on-year. Mobile device transactions also continue to rise, with 66% of all transactions coming from mobile devices in the first half of 2020, which is up from 20% in early 2015.

The Digital Identity Network also notes an uptick in transactions from new devices and new digital identities. LexisNexis Risk Solutions attributes this to many new-to-digital consumers moving online to procure goods and services that were no longer available in person or harder to access via a physical store during the pandemic.

The Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region saw lower overall attack rates in comparison to most other global regions. This is due to a high volume of trusted login transactions across relatively mature mobile apps. The attack patterns in the EMEA were also more benign and had less volatility and fewer spikes in attack rates. However, there are some notable exceptions. Desktop transactions conducted from the EMEA had a higher attack rate than the global average, while automated bot attack volumes grew by 45% year-on-year.

The UK is described as a particular ‘pain point’. It originates the highest volume of human-initiated cyber attacks in the EMEA, with Germany and France second and third in the region. The UK is also the second largest contributor to global bot attacks behind the United States.

One example of a UK banking fraud network saw more than USD$17 million exposed to fraud across ten financial services organisations. This network alone consisted of 7,800 devices, 5,200 e-mail addresses and 1,000 telephone numbers.

Additional key findings

Decline in attack rate

The overall human-initiated attack rate across the Digital Identity Network fell through the first half of 2020, showing a 33% decline year-on-year. The breakdown by sector highlights a 23% decline in financial services and a 55% decline in e-commerce attack rates.

Latin America experienced the highest attack rates of all regions globally and realised consistent growth in attack rates from March to June. The attack patterns in North America and the EMEA had less volatility and fewer spikes in attack rates from the six-month period observed.

Attack vector global view

Media is the only industry that recorded an overall year-on-year growth in human-initiated cyber attacks. The Digital Identity Network recorded the 3% increase solely across mobile browser transactions.

Globally, automated bots remain a key attack vector in the Digital Identity Network. Financial services organisations experienced a surge in automated bot attacks and continue to experience more bot attacks than any other industry.

Customer journey

New account creations see attacks at a higher rate than any other transaction type in the online customer journey. However, the largest volume of attacks targets online payments. Login transactions have seen the biggest drop in attack rate in comparison to other use cases.

Analysis across new customer touchpoints in the online journey is included in this report for the first time, in turn providing additional context on key points of risk such as money transfers and password resets.

Impact of COVID-19

All industries have felt the impact of COVID-19. There are clear peaks and troughs in transaction volumes coinciding with global lockdown periods. Financial services organisations realised a growth in new-to-digital banking users, a changing geographical footprint from previously well-travelled consumers and a reduction in the number of devices used per customer. There have also been several attacks targeting banks offering COVID-19-related loans.

For their part, e-commerce merchants have witnessed an increase in digital payments and several other key attack typologies that coincide with the lockdown period. These included account takeover attacks using identity spoofing and more first-party chargeback fraud.

“This is the first LexisNexis Risk Solutions Cyber Crime Report to include data on the new reality of conducting business during a pandemic,” said Rebekah Moody, director of fraud and identity at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. “For both businesses and consumers, the move to digital has been significant. Yet with this change comes opportunity for exploitation. Fraudsters look for easy targets, whether Government support packages, new lines of credit or media companies with fewer barriers to entry. We need to ensure that all consumers, and especially those who might be new to digital, are protected. Businesses must arm themselves with a layered defence that can detect the full spectrum of possible attacks and is future-proofed against evolving threats.”

Dr Stephen Topliss, vice-president of fraud and identity at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, added: “While the face of cyber crime will continue to re-shape to fit the growing global digital economy, the ability for businesses to reliably recognise good and trusted customers must remain constant. We must identify and block fraudsters, whether opportunists or highly networked fraud rings, the moment they transact. Knowledge sharing must be as pivotal to global businesses as it is to the cyber criminals that attack them.”

*Download a copy of the LexisNexis Risk Solutions Cyber Crime Report - January to June 2020. View a video summary of the document here