With mobile devices now offering reach through over 7 billion connections, and reach on devices deemed so valuable that many people keep them within arm’s length at all times, mobile fraud presents an especially penetrating threat to businesses and consumers.
Over my career, I’ve had the privilege to be a part of several major efforts to tackle the threat of mobile fraud, both at Syniverse and at another organization that I’m proud to be a part of – the GSMA. The GSMA’s Fraud and Security Group consists of a number of specialized teams that provide an open and collaborative environment to study fraud and security threats. In the spirit of knowledge sharing and industry advancement, these teams bring together a diverse range of mobile professionals to develop solutions to combat today’s fraud threats and protect the health of the mobile ecosystem at large.
I was recently elected as Chair of one of these teams, the Roaming and Interconnect Fraud and Security (RIFS) Subgroup, and in this post I would like to answer several questions I frequently get about our work and share more about our goals.
As mobile use continues to soar and become a more and more important element of our lifestyles, mobile fraud will in parallel become an increasing risk. I hope my answers shed light on some of the strides that our industry is making toward battling this threat.
What has been your involvement with the Roaming and Interconnect Fraud and Security (RIFS) Subgroup?
I was elected Chair of RIFS on April 9, 2015. RIFS was formed at the end of 2014 through the merging of the Fraud Forum Roaming Subgroup, which I also chaired, and the Security Group Signaling Subgroup. All told, I’ve been a member of different GSMA fraud groups for more than 10 years.
How many members does RIFS have, and how often do you meet?
The subgroup was just formed in December of last year, so we’ve only had one in-person meeting, in February, when 70 delegates met in Spain. Our next meeting, which is about to start at the time I write this, will be at the GSMA Fraud and Security Group meeting in June in Singapore. Between our in-person meetings, we have conference calls every two weeks to continue making progress on a number of fronts. Total RIFS membership exceeds 230 people.
What’s the purpose of RIFS, and what are your top priorities?
RIFS is part of the larger GSMA Fraud and Security Group. Overall, RIFS focuses on fraud and security matters relating to roaming, interconnection and signaling. Our purpose is to identify any fraud and security risks in these domains and to make recommendations for mitigating vulnerabilities. Importantly, the GSMA recently combined the fraud and security domains, because in these new environments, it’s common to find that fraud abuse is tightly linked to security vulnerabilities.
One of our top priorities is to learn how to work in a way that best meets the needs of RIFS members while also meeting the objectives of the GSMA Products and Services Management Committee, which managed the delivery of the GSMA’s strategic technical programs. We have to strike a balance between the fraud and security topics, which historically have involved different skills.
Why is it important to join forces to combat fraud?
The sheer speed and complexity with which the mobile landscape is changing, and the ways in which they create opportunities for fraud, make it vital for us to work together. Among some of the biggest challenges we face now are the move to all-IP networks, the rise of new mobile services, and the development of new commercial models, which are of particular importance because fraudsters often “follow the money.”
To this end, the GSMA’s fraud and security groups have built a valuable relationship of trust between operators and other mobile service providers. We all have to respect the privacy of our customers, but when specific frauds arise, it helps to share information to allow safeguards to be put in place. This has allowed a free exchange of information and learning that has helped the industry combat fraud more effectively in a number of ways. Joining forces has truly fostered an environment of synergy where the whole of our efforts is worth more than the sum of the parts that we could contribute individually.
What’s rewarding about being involved with RIFS?
RIFS offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to help address an industrywide problem and play a leading role in the advancement of solutions to combat it. It’s a chance to simultaneously work with operators, technology companies and other mobile players to exchange ideas, remove roadblocks, and help the mobile experience be the best it can be.
Most importantly, the people in RIFS are willing to help one another. We have many people who have a unique knowledge and skill set and who actively give time to help advance essential projects for the good of the industry at large. That mutual desire to learn and contribute makes it rewarding for everyone who actively participates. I love to be a part of that!