80% of global smishing attacks targeted EU citizens

80% of global smishing attacks targeted EU citizens Duncan is an award-winning researcher, with 20 years experience of analysing the technology industry, specialising in cloud computing, edge computing, blockchain, cybersecurity and marketing technology.

New data from international connectivity enabler BICS has revealed it blocked 507 million fraudulent spam calls and robocalls across its network in 2023 – up 28% from the 395 million calls blocked in 2022. In total, BICS saved its customers 87 million EUR in estimated costs of wholesale fraud exposure

The figures reveal an alarming persistence – and growing complexity – in telecom fraud schemes. The ITW Global Leaders’ Forum (GLF) recently reported 92% of carriers are prioritising fraud prevention. To block the amount of calls it did in 2023, BICS utilised its FraudGuard solution, leveraging an extensive network of over 900 service providers. It uses a crowdsourcing model to automatically analyse BICS’ global traffic and protect it from attacks 24/7.

Jorn Vercamert, VP for Customer Solutions and Products at BICS, said: “Trust in communications is being diminished by robocalls. It’s not just the volume, but the sophistication of fraudulent attacks swarming operators, that is causing significant financial and reputational loss. That’s going to make industry collaboration initiatives between telcos and regulators more important than ever. BICS has been advocating for greater industry collaboration for years, actively contributing to discussions being held by the i3 Forum, and we’re proud to have recently joined its One Consortium initiative with this aim in mind.”

Beyond robocall attacks, SMS frauds, more specifically smishing attacks (the fraudulent practice of sending text messages purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information), are on a steep rising curve. In total, BICS proactively blocked 473 million smishing attempts. This aligns with industry findings from the GLF in 2023, where 61% of operators reported higher messaging fraud – double that of 2022 (35 percent). European citizens are the main target: 80 percent of the smishing attacks identified by BICS have targeted EU citizens (54 million individuals), and 80 percent of attacks originated using EU calling numbers.

The top countries originating smishing attacks include France, Poland, Chad, Spain and Germany, while 30% of those smishing attacks detected and blocked by BICS targeted Belgium and UK users as the intended destination.

Katia Gonzalez, head of fraud prevention and security services at BICS, said: “Robotexts are on a ticking time-bomb trajectory to overtake robocalls, and in my view, will become a much greater threat to consumers and enterprises than voice fraud.

“It is easier to get someone to engage with over SMS than a call, meaning it’s a lot easier for fraudsters to maximise impact via SMS. Unfortunately, it is more complex matter compared to Voice fraud and operators and businesses have less experience when it comes to staving off SMS fraud.

“There’s generally a good amount of regulatory pressure already coming in on the voice front these days, but we need the same for SMS.  Telcos and government bodies should unite around creating a regulatory framework that allows for utilising SMS content in a controlled and privacy-sensible manner to spot fraud.”

The GLF recently named BICS among the list of 22 carriers compliant with the GLF Code of Conduct for combatting fraud traffic. The code, established in 2018 in partnership with the i3Forum, sets forth principles for improving collaboration and effectiveness in fighting fraud.  Juniper Research also recognised BICS’ FraudGuard platform with a Telco Innovation Award for its effectiveness in mitigating international voice fraud.

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