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Escrow: Beyond the banking sector

While escrow platforms are likely to be widely adopted by the banking sector as an important security measure to counter fraud, they could have a much wider remit. According to Dr Stephen Hill, director of the Fraud Advisory Panel, they "are one of a raft of measures", which could be re-engineered to help Medical Trusts safeguard medical and social care records from cyber criminals.

Dr Hill, says, “Recent findings from Europol’s cyber-security centre highlight that data is the most precious commodity coveted by organised criminal gangs. And it is not a person’s financial data that is the most valuable commodity for criminals illicitly trading on the dark web –  it is medical information. Why? Because when it is sold on the dark web, fraudsters can use it to manufacture counterfeit IDs so that medical equipment and expensive medicines can be purchased and fictitious insurance claims be made.”


Dr Hill, who has trained a myriad of organisations in fraud prevention, including the National Crime Agency and UK and European police forces, explains how Escrow could be adapted to help records safe from hackers.


Perhaps in the future Escrow can play a part here too by providing a secure outlet to transfer data to the public.


“Organisations in the future will need to take a far less binary view of what fraud looks like. They’ll need to understand the drivers behind cyber-crime. In terms of medical records, which is extremely sensitive data, there needs to be greater security in terms of how they are stored, policed and distributed. Perhaps in the future Escrow can play a part here too by providing a secure outlet to transfer data to the public.

"Lawyers can make use of Escrow systems too. Astonishingly today archaic methods like fax machines are still used to transport records from one location to the next. Email systems can be infiltrated too. Only servers that support encrypted data should be used by health professionals. Even better of course would be to build secure third party repositories to collect and relay data.”

But Dr Hill, who also serves the City of London Police’s Economic Crime Directorate in a volunteer capacity, says that the many measures and mechanisms that are currently being developed and deployed, of which escrow sites are one, are only as strong as the weakest links in the financial services chain.

There is tendency today for senior managers and boards to treat cyber crime as purely an IT matter, when instead it is an issue that can only be solved with buy-in from the board and a proactive approach, underpinned by education, which cascades downwards and is implemented by every member of staff.

“The worldwide ransomware attack, where systems were not patched or updated, powerfully illustrates what happens when individuals fail to take ownership of a problem that affects an entire enterprise...”


While education remains the best [fraud] deterrent, to really move the needle, I think industry will also need to incentivise the public to change its mindset

But Dr Hill, is confident that the battle to instil a culture of anti-fraud prevention in UK industry will win out.

“In terms of overcoming peer-to-peer fraud, the banking industry is leading the way,” says Hill. “Some banks have been very good in not only inculcating this culture from the top down in their own institutions, but also are extending that training to their customers. Barclays, in particular, has not only launched a series of TV adverts, but also a micro-site in which it reveals the many forms of online scams and teaches viewers and customers how to avoid them.

“Other banks insist that customers make their passwords as fraud proof as possible, and if customers don’t comply they are prevented from continuing with the registration process.

“Finally while education remains the best deterrent, to really move the needle, I think industry will also need to incentivise the public to change its mindset. Therefore, I could see the eCommerce giants, banks and insurance leviathans providing small financial inducements to those customers who can consistently demonstrate a high level of cyber secure awareness in their online dealings. Therefore, those customers who transact using a secure escrow site could be given some financial benefit, as, in doing so, they are helping to prevent fraud, which could cost an online auction site time and money to investigate,” he concludes.


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Financial Fraud UK: Working together to prevent fraud, Fraud: The Facts 2017: The definitive overview of payment industry fraudRemote Purchase Fraud (page 16)
The Independent, NHS Cyber Attack: Why Stolen Medical Records is so much more valuable than financial data, By Aatef Sulleyman, 12, May, 2017

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