Businesses learn tips for avoiding cyber and wire fraud

Protecting businesses from intruders in the digital world was the focus of an Oct. 14 event on cyber security.

Customers of City National Bank and other guests attended the event at The Grove in South Reno to learn how to better protect themselves and their companies’ bottom lines from cyber criminals.

John Wilcox, Nevada regional executive for the bank, told the audience that his company spends millions each year trying to stay ahead of the fraudsters, but Wilcox said it is not always easy.

“These days, wire is cash,” said Wilcox, referring to City National’s 10,000 wire transactions a day totaling over $3 billion.

Around-the-clock monitoring of credit card use, verifying customer’s purchases, reissuing credit and debit cards and beefing up their own security systems and firewalls continues to be a major expense for banks, said Wilcox.

As a sign of the times, he stated, “Violent crime is down; virtual crime is up” he said of data breaches both big and small, and which seem to be an everyday occurrence and reported in the media. He said cyber fraud costs the U.S. economy in excess of $100 billion each year.

“The Internet is the greatest (technological) advancement of my life, but it is also the greatest threat” to the bottom lines of businesses and individuals, he said, harkening back to the days when most banking and business was done by paper and calculators.

Everyone at a business should be vigilant — from the C suite to the accounts payable desk, he said.

Four panelists from the bank spoke and took questions from about 50 attendees.

According to Briane Grey, senior vice president and corporate security manager for City National, the tool of choice for criminals is business email compromise.

“Many of the cases we are seeing involve social engineering or phishing for confidential information,” said Grey.

Scammers may pose as colleagues, clients or parties you or your company have done business with, either to get your confidential account information or to convince you to wire funds.

In some cases, if they have access to your mail or invoices, they may pretend to be a vendor asking for funds to be wired to a new account.

A husband was duped into approving $2 million in wire transfers to Singapore when his wife, a fine art buyer, had her email account hacked.

Given his wife’s business, it seemed perfectly legitimate to the husband to OK the wire transfer when the bank called, said Mike Corlew, City National’s senior vice president of funds transfer. The day she got home, he commented on how much artwork she had purchased. She hadn’t bought anything.

Corlew, who got the call at 2 in the morning, said the bank was successful in stopping payment on the second wire transaction, which totaled $1.2 million. His department, which includes several foreign language speakers, can effectively intervene in most wire fraud cases.

“An adversary only has to find one weak link,” said Corlew, especially the hackers specializing in obtaining email and accounting and credit card information, detailing a number of cyberattack tools.

In all cases, the speakers said the best policy is to be vigilant, use common sense and take a detailed approach.

Insist on verbally verifying requests before wiring money. Criminals are getting bolder and the amounts are getting bigger.


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