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Criminals are taking advantage of businesses being on the back-foot when it comes to recent rapid developments in work and consumer habits. And businesses are fighting back, by ramping up artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.

With the pandemic enabling more employees to work remotely than ever before, the attack surface area has expanded. Simple corporate firewalls can no longer protect a business and criminals are targeting unprotected areas of operations. Equally, as businesses have scrambled to keep up with consumer demand, criminals have exploited the gaps.

From instant payments and fast deliveries, to increasing environmental, social and governance (ESG) scrutiny over supply chains, criminals are exposing business vulnerabilities created by rapid developments in these areas.

With cyber-attacks increasing exponentially, many companies are turning to AI to support with crime prevention and detection. So, in what ways are businesses deploying AI to help fight crime?

Sifting through big data

Big data is just that. Big. Where humans couldn’t possibly scan through such high volumes of data, AI systems can wade through terabytes every day. That’s why businesses are turning to AI to filter through big data and flag anomalies, identifying abnormal patterns of behaviour that could indicate criminal activity.

Regulatory fines and reducing false positives

Failing to prevent money laundering is a costly business, with ING in the Netherlands being fined €775m (£650m) for not identifying millions of laundered euros between 2010 and 2016. But wading through such a sheer volume of alerts is also time consuming and costly. That’s why businesses are using AI to analyse anti money laundering (AML) alerts faster and more accurately than human compliance teams.

With the cost of unnecessarily chasing false positives representing around 42% of the total outlay on a companies’ AML compliance (approximately £2.7bn), AI and machine learning bring the most pressing cases to compliance teams for review. This helps to greatly reduce time spent on investigating alerts, whilst also protecting businesses from criminal activity.

Keeping all businesses safe

It’s easy to think that financial crime mainly happens in financial services – money laundering through large banks, for example. But the truth is, it occurs across multiple sectors and business sizes – and financial crime is on the rise. Criminal gangs are known to employ smart people to exploit weaknesses in compliance practices. From rapidly growing businesses that are looking to secure investment, but haven’t established thorough compliance yet, to employees that have a gambling addiction – criminals know how to target vulnerability. And similar to investors, criminals analyse the market for trends and imminent IPOs – presenting an opportunity to launder money.

Businesses that don’t operate in financial services can’t rest on their laurels. Financial crime isn’t something that just affects banks. Criminals are looking for ways to clean large quantities of illegal money and they don’t care how. They just need a suitable vehicle within a business. This makes the role of AI even more important, in detecting and preventing such activity from occurring.

Exposing third party weaknesses

Companies can no longer simply guard the front door, when third parties might be exposing the back. Businesses must vet the security systems of third-party suppliers, to ensure their organisations remain safe. Utilising AI and blockchain technology together, organisations have a much greater transparency over supply chains – enabling them to identify where there may be higher risk and flagging where attention is needed.

Cross sector and country collaboration

Data gathered from business use of AI, is being shared with other approved agencies in fighting crime. Where one business may identify criminal activity, such as money laundering, other agencies can use this information to support cases against human trafficking and counterfeiting. This information exchange between public and private organisations is helping to deter offenders, as the wealth of information is being increasingly shared to drive down criminal activity.

As businesses and consumers conduct life increasingly virtually, the attack surface for criminals has expanded. Businesses are increasingly relying on AI to prevent and detect crime, but many need quality professionals to advise on what solutions would work best for them. This then helps organisations to maximise investment made in technology, to ensure AI solutions work across the business – rather than being focused on one area, such as crime deterrence.

Technology, cyber and security professionals can then ensure that intelligent solutions are embedded across the organisation, giving businesses multiple points to benefit from investment. The advantages are multifaceted too, protecting the organisation and customers, whilst becoming more data rich and able to support the wider goal of stamping out crime.