Former fraudster turned crimefighter Tony Sales addressed guests at Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education last week, giving academics and IT professionals cause for thought…
In his lecture, Tony Sales demonstrated how a fraudster could use online information, some of it readily shared by people on their social media pages, to take over an individual’s financial identity – ultimately remortgaging their house! He showed how easy it is for criminals to discover online passwords of their victims by going into their local coffee shop and tapping into public Wifi there – with the help of an easily downloadable app.
Once inside their victim’s personal email and online shopping accounts, the criminal quickly learns all about them. “People’s tendency to use the same, or similar, password across multiple accounts is a huge help to the criminal” says Tony. “All it then takes is a short ‘phishing’ phone call to nail crucial financial information. It is easy for the criminal to sound convincing on the phone as they pretend to be from a major retailer – as they now have an intimate knowledge of their victim’s shopping habits and recent transactions”.
The event was organised by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, who had invited Tony to address its Christmas meeting at Rewley House, Oxford last week. “It was a rare opportunity to hear a speaker with such practical experience in this field who has only previously spoken to retail and financial services audiences” said Tim Lambertstock, Chair of the BCS Oxfordshire Branch.
“Our audience is pretty savvy,” says Tim Lambertstock. “Our events are open to non-members but most are IT specialists and professionals in the field. This event also attracted an audience from academics, researchers and students from the University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University, eager to hear Tony’s perspective”.
“Some people were sceptical, believing the threat of cyber fraud is exaggerated – unless they’d had personal involvement. I believe Tony may have given them cause to reconsider”.
BCS members and fellows include many of the UK’s most influential IT players, including World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Among its aims are bridging the gap between education, policy and research, and informing public policy on the wider use of IT in society.
As BCS’s Tim Lambertstock summed up “If you live your entire life through social media you need to be aware that someone else, a criminal, could too.”