Statistics Can Kill You

I love numbers. I love the story they can tell. But mostly, I love how they can deceive without lying.

Every day we are bombarded with statistics. Many of us are influence by what we read – me included. Sometimes I am fooled by them, so I have developed some rules to protect myself.

Rule #1: Be Sceptical. When at University in the 80s, I read an article in the Daily Mail that suggested a young boy spent £300 a day (money he stole from his parents) to play Space Invaders at Dudley Zoo. Assuming the boy consistently played the shortest game possible, the zoo would have to open for more than 24 hours a day for this to be possible (I confirmed the game was only available for eight hours). I haven’t read the Daily Mail since – mostly because I spent my grant on Space Invaders.

Rule #2: Don’t believe someone else’s interpretation of the data – verify it yourself. In 2017, several news sites published the headline “being single will kill you faster than being obese”. It won’t. Being young and single is dangerous; being lonely, is more dangerous. So, if you plan to eat too much, do so with friends.

Rule #3: Measure the Significance. I mentioned to Alison, my wife, that a bottle of wine a week increases your risk of cancer. Her response “Do you want to strip all the joy from my life?! Didn’t you do enough when you forced me to marry you!” As it turns out, the study shows drinking modest amounts of alcohol modestly increases your overall lifetime risk of some cancers: statistically significant, but not personally significant. If you are going to quote statistics to your wife, make sure it will help her, not break up your marriage.

Rule #4: Consider the big picture. Back to Alison… if she were to drink one glass of red wine each day (1 1/8 bottles a week), she’d live longer. Supposedly, the protection red wine provides against heart disease and dementia outweighs the increased risk of cancer: although I image this study was sponsored by the wine industry.

Rule #5: Statisticians are humans too. There are good statisticians and bad statisticians and statisticians who are incented to ignore the facts. You don’t now which is which.

I often use statistics to win an argument. I promise to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth (but not the whole truth). I’ll never lie, but if its to my advantage, I may not put them in your context, I’ll conveniently omit key facts and ignore the bigger picture. These things are your responsibility.

P.S. If a statistic supports your argument, don’t look at it too closely. It is depressing to learn you are wrong. And depression can kill you.

Making a fool of yourself with IoT

My first job with bell labs in 1985 was to work on an application called “automated building management”, a product for controlling the environment and security of large buildings. During an upgrade for a large corporation I trashed a rather sensitive memory board on the server and the application failed. That night the security guards guided hundreds of employees to their cars by flashlight as no one could remember where to find the light switch.

For many years I considered the staff of that building inept. How could they so easily lose control of the basic functions of the building? And then I discovered the Internet of things, smart devices, the smart home…

My first purchase was a Nest Smoke Detector that can email me when my house is on fire: presumably so I know there’s no point in coming home. I also bought the Nest Smart Thermostat because they could talk to each other – and you don’t want your smart devices to be lonely. The smoke detector (which is also a CO2 detector) can tell the thermostat to switch off the boiler if it detects carbon monoxide, which is actually quite clever.

Next, I spent 100s of pounds on smart light bulbs. I justified the purchase to Alison by saying we needed to learn this technology, or we wouldn’t know how to turn the lights on when we visited our grandchildren. At the time, we didn’t have any grandchildren, but you get the point. We don’t want to be behind our kids with technology.

Alison still believes these devices are there to spy on her… of course I spy on her, but that wasn’t the reason for buying them. My aim is simple: rather than having the smoke detector email me, it will ask the lights to light a red path to the back door and signal a smart lock to unlock the door. All that remains is to train Lottie (our dog) to follow the lights when they go red and open the door – then we won’t have to hide the matches when we go out for the evening without her.

I haven’t come close to my objective: Lottie has a real problem with the door handle. The real result is that I have lost control of our house…

I wasn’t home for the first incident, but Alison was. It turns out that the default position of my lights is on. In the past, if we had a short power cut in the middle of the night, we would be unaware until we saw the flashing clock on the cooker the next morning. Now, it turns out, when the power comes back on in the middle of the night, so do all the lights – full brightness – even the ones in the bedroom. Alison wasn’t pleased.

I relocated the bedroom lights, and, over time, Alison forgave me. But then, last Christmas, all the lights, everywhere in the house, randomly cycled through their colours. It took me most of the evening to find a cure. As it turns out I had programmed them, without realising, to do this when the space station flies over Houston. I’m sure this is useful to someone, but Alison didn’t see it that way.

I love technology, and I can see wonderful potential in smart technology. But in the home, most of these devices are just toys and they aren’t very smart… or maybe it’s me that’s not.

Embracing Compassionate Leadership

As an avid reader and occasional practitioner of Eastern spirituality, I was recently approached by a like-minded Dutchman who happens to run a training course for the Armed forces of the Netherlands.

The subject of his course is Compassionate Leadership which is essentially about helping military leaders develop qualities that place others before the self. The term compassion means “to suffer with” and be able to empathise with the emotional state of another in a bid to alleviate or reduce their suffering. Granted, one might find this topic rather at odds with the vision of a highly organized military machine trained to kill on a battlefield.

The Dutchman’s request was simple: would I mind contributing to his coursework by providing an account of my personal experience of leadership. Why me I thought…half expecting a wry expression on his face. But as the conversation rolled on, I realised he had done some homework.

My entrepreneurial days have shown me that the most successful companies are those that can tap the huge potential of their employees by enabling them to become leaders in their own right, and empowering them to make important decisions that impact the growth of the business. They are invested with a sense of mission and purpose and given the opportunity to feel part of something greater than themselves, whether it’s in service to their colleagues, their customers, or a to wider community. Creating the right conditions for this to happen is what matters, but this requires a deep-rooted understanding and appreciation of what’s important in their lives.

The Eastern approach teaches us to let go of the ego – the truth-seeker’s quest of a lifetime, or many lifetimes – as it implies a gradual and progressive change in our state of consciousness. However, the starting point on this journey is accessible to us all, in the sense that we can grasp the meaning of compassion. It is a feeling that arises naturally in all of us, even if not obviously manifest, and we can already start to practice compassion in small everyday actions.

In the very same way that teaching today’s military leaders to take care of their soldiers is of paramount importance – introducing notions such as empathy, mindfulness, awareness, and the duty of care in a combat arms environment – the greatest of achievements will hail from leaders capable of acting with compassion, by putting others first, and watching over their mental and emotional well-being.

I like to think of our business as one that recognises every team member as an essential thread in the overall tapestry of the organization, working in an environment in which the qualities and attributes of compassionate leadership can excel. A place that personifies the core values that give our working lives meaning, and a deeper sense of belonging and purpose, as we work collectively towards the greater good of the customers and communities we serve.

Anti-Fraud Technology – Friend and Foe

A work colleague recently asked me how fraud prevention grows alongside the evolution of technology. As a developer in a company offering a fraud management system, his interest was how we use new technology to improve our fight against fraud. In reality, it is usually the fraudster that is motivated by new technology and the fraud detection follows.

In my preteens in the UK, I learned how to make free calls from a coin-box by tapping the switch hook. When in-band signalling was introduced, a good whistler or a canary could make a free call, or you could use a Blue Box to generate the necessary signals more reliably. I wasn’t motivated by fraud: I was a lonely child, so it didn’t matter much whom I was connecting to. The “phone phreaks” making blue boxes weren’t motivated by fraud either, but new technology created opportunity.

Remember those manual switch boards operated by a nosey, condescending telephone operator like Ernestine (Lily Tomlin)? It was this primitive technology that motivated Almon Strowger to invent the automatic telephone exchange: not to improve efficiency, but because he believed the wife of his competitor (a telephone operator) was routing calls to her husband.

The electronic switch put paid to the unscrupulous telephone operator and out-of-band signalling put paid to the blue box (and probably a few canaries). But the opportunities for fraud grew with the technological evolution of the telephone network.

As PABX became more sophisticated, the switching environment was no longer protected by the telephone company, but in the hands of companies with no experience of telephony. Unaware of their need for rigorous security, PABX have long been a fruitful technology for fraudsters. You don’t have to wait long to hear about a new PABX hack and we’re still spending time looking for them.

Moving forward to more modern times, Voice over IP drove down the cost of building legitimate voice networks, but also provided the means for almost anyone to set-up as an operator to route traffic illegally, which sent us all looking for ways to identify SIM Boxes. One such method is to use test calls, which prompted fraudsters to use CDR analysis (the very domain of the FMS) to identify the test numbers.

Is it technology that improves our ability to detect fraud or technology that provides the opportunity for fraud? I think both, but it is usually the fraudster that benefits first.

Meet us at WAS #10 in Valencia, Spain

GSMA WAS#10 will host participants from 140 countries, bringing together 285 mobile operators and 110 suppliers from 6 continents. A team of GMS top experts is ready to share their key knowledge and exchange ideas and information.

Book your appointment

XINTEC Speaking Slot at ConneXion Asia

Sean Killeen, our Chairman, will be attending ConneXion Asia 2019 in Bangkok on the 4th & 5th of September.

He will be speaking on the topic: ‘Beating Fraudsters at their Own Game”, on Wednesday 4th September, 11.45-12.15.

To schedule a meeting with Sean at the event, please fill in below

APPLYING THE 80/20 RULE TO TELECOM FRAUD

Also known as the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule can be roughly applied to virtually any business need. In the 80/20 rule, organizations are able to get eighty percent of their results using twenty percent of their resources. In sales, 80 percent of all sales may be completed by the top 20 percent of employees. In fraud management, 80 percent of fraud can easily be detected and mitigated with 20 percent of the effort. Many business owners believe that they can’t afford fraud management, when in fact, most fraud can be managed affordably using the right solutions.

The Biggest Risks in Fraud Management

With the advent of services based on the Internet of Things or Mobile Money for instance, the opportunities available to fraudsters are growing. Many organised criminals now have access to virtually limitless resources, which they can use to target businesses until they find a vulnerability – the so-called “weakest-link” within targeted organisations. They are using known exploits to narrow down the businesses that are least likely to be protected. This is where the 80/20 rule to fraud management becomes important.

Small- to mid-sized businesses may feel as though they cannot invest in state-of-the-art fraud management solutions, or consulting and training. And they may be right: it might not be cost-effective for them to do so. However, they can easily afford a solution that will substantially reduce their risk. Though very little can stop dedicated attackers even using best-in-class equipment, a solution that is at 20% of the cost of a tier-one industrial system can stop 80% of the attackers and attacks. Using the 80/20 principle, businesses can manage and mitigate risk without having to invest more than is prudent.

The Importance of Telecom Fraud Detection

Fraud can cost an organisation millions of dollars. Wide-scale fraud can lead to the theft of airtime resources and even financial and personally identifiable information, ultimately leaving a company to not only recover its direct damages but also to revamp its own internal security solutions and policies.

Luckily, most fraud threats are known and can be prevented. Many fraud threats are either already well understood by telecom fraud solutions providers, as they bear certain hallmarks, such as specific behaviours and activities. By applying the 80/20 principle, telecom operators are able to identify and mitigate fraud attacks as they arise, therefore saving themselves potentially millions or even tens of millions of dollars.

Once fraud has occurred, it becomes far more difficult to mitigate. Money that is lost is often gone forever, as it can disappear without a trace. Once information has been breached, there’s often no way to pull it back. A single incidence of fraud can easily spell doom for a company: there are many companies that have shut down entirely in the months following a major fraud attack.

With as many fraudulent attacks as there are each day, businesses need to be vigilant and they need a solution that can automatically detect incidences of fraud. Telecom fraud solutions providers are able to substantially reduce the number of fraud threats that go unnoticed, without increasing the amount of resources and administrative time that the business needs to use day-to-day.

There’s No Guarantee in Security

Even the best, next-generation fraud detection solutions cannot guarantee complete security. There is no system that offers 100% fraud detection, as fraud detection is becoming too advanced. Though a business can invest in the best fraud management solutions available, they may still become the victim of fraud. Not only that, but they will have wasted a substantial amount of money trying to protect against that last 20%. Security is truly a matter of risk management.

Fraud is extraordinarily costly to telecom operators. Not only does it cost the business in money and time, but it can also result in damage to the company’s reputation. By investing in telecom fraud solutions that are fit for purpose, businesses can reduce their exposure and therefore their risk. 

ROB DURRAN APPOINTED CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF XINTEC

Tuesday 18th June, 2019: Irish fraud and revenue assurance provider XINTEC today announced that Rob Durran has been appointed chief executive officer of the organisation. Rob will take over from outgoing CEO and founder of XINTEC, Sean Killeen.

Rob currently holds the role of general manager at XINTEC having played an instrumental role in the company’s road to profitability over the last number of years. Prior to joining XINTEC in 2012, Rob held the role of Business Development Director at Lansdowne Real Estate Group. As well as an honours degree in property, law, tax and construction from Limerick Institute of Technology, Rob also holds a Master’s in Business from University College Cork.

In his new role, Rob will be responsible for leading the company on an ambitious growth, through the development of its fraud and revenue assurance platforms and the continuous improvement of its customer relationship and acquisition strategy. Sean will continue to remain involved in XINTEC as business development director, as well as the role of chairman of the board. 

Commenting on his new position Rob said. “I’m excited to be taking the reins at XINTEC, a company that I have been passionately involved in building over the last seven years. As anyone launching a start-up will know, it is a hugely challenging journey, one that has thankfully reaped success and I, along with my talented team, are excited about the next stage of XINTEC’s journey and the many opportunities available. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Sean for his continued support and I look forward to working with him in his new role.”

Outgoing chief executive Sean Killeen said, “Rob has played a pivotal role in XINTEC’s growth, particularly in the last three years as we made some major strategic business decisions, including the re-location of the team to Kerry, the recruitment of some of the most talented professionals in the industry and the development of new, market leading products. I have every confidence in Rob’s ability to drive the organisation as we embark on our next growth phase, backed by a very capable team of professionals.”

XINTEC is one of the world’s most trusted and recognised providers of fraud and revenue assurance solutions in the communications industry. With customers across the EMEA, APAC and US region, XINTEC is at the front line in protecting its customers from serious threats that can have detrimental effects on both the reputation and bottom line of service providers across the globe.

XINTEC APPOINTS ADRIAN HARRIS AS SENIOR FRAUD & RISK CONSULTANT

28th January 2019

XINTEC has announced the appointment of Adrian Harris as Senior Fraud and Risk Consultant. A veteran of the telecoms industry, Adrian brings a wealth of domain knowledge and experience to the role and will have responsibility for working with XINTEC’s technical and commercial teams to expand the company’s product offerings.

Prior to joining XINTEC, Adrian spent 11 years working with Neural Technologies as Director of New Products. He also held the Director of Fraud Solution for Cerebrus Solutions from 2002-2007. He’s been working in the telecommunications industry since 1985 when he joined AT&T Bell Labs in the USA. He is a renowned expert in risk management and has travelled extensively throughout the world speaking at industry events and supporting telecommunication providers in mitigating risk and implementing fraud and revenue assurance solutions.

Sean Killeen, CEO of XINTEC commented, ‘We are delighted to welcome Adrian to the team and looking forward to building on our growth to date by harnessing Adrian’s expertise in the field of strategic risk management. Adrian has many years in the industry and his experience and knowledge will be hugely beneficial to our customers as we work with them to implement better controls to mitigate risk and grow their revenues.’

Adrian commented, ‘I am delighted to be joining XINTEC, a company that reflects my own ethos on close customer engagement and cost-effective solutions to real problems. This approach, which allows growing telecom service providers to implement leading technology within their budgets, is forward thinking and has great growth potential.’

Adrian’s appointment is the first of five new roles to be filled at XINTEC’s global headquarters in County Kerry, Ireland. Additional roles to be announced in the coming months include software development, support and testing.

XINTEC provides comprehensive Fraud Management and Revenue Assurance software solutions to fixed-line and cellular/mobile telecommunications operators worldwide. These solutions help operators maximize their revenues by eliminating revenue leakage and fraud-related losses. XINTEC’s minimally invasive ‘light-touch’ technology is designed for rapid deployment, scalability and cost leadership. XINTEC target the small and emerging, and mid-size operator segment worldwide, and has customers in EMEA, Middle East, APAC and the Americas.

TELESOM SELECTS XINTEC’S FRAUD SOLUTION, FMSEVOLUTION

6th December 2018 

Telesom, Somaliland’s leading telecoms provider, has announced that it has signed a deal with XINTEC for its FMSevolution tool to monitor for Fraud across its network.

In running all its fixed line and mobile traffic through XINTEC’s leading edge fraud detection system, the company will greatly enhance its protection against the world’s biggest fraud threats. The solution also provides additional detection techniques such as overlapping calls, high-usage detection and associative methods which combined with a unique hotlist database will significantly reduce fraud and deliver outstanding results.

Adnan Dahir, Telesom’s International Relations Manager said, “We were were impressed with both the simple and straightforward model that XINTEC offers, and the quick deployment of the technology. Protecting our network against fraud is of crucial importance and in partnering with XINTEC and launching the FMSevolution tool we are confident that we have best in class measures now in place to safeguard our network.”

Commenting on the deal, Sean Killeen, CEO of XINTEC said, “We are delighted to partner with Telesom to enhance the security of their operation and prevent any potential future financial losses through fraud. Together with our rapidly expanding customer base, we are now leading the charge on tackling the world’s largest fraud threats in a cost effective way and creating a virtual army against this ever-growing threat to our industry.”

XINTEC’s FMSevolution solution is a real-time fraud detection tool. With FMSevolution, Fraud Managers can now access comprehensive reporting on alerts, data and traffic using an easy-to-use Web dashboard. With its live database of over 1.5 million test call numbers, FMSevolution can immediately alert its customers if an attack using these test numbers is dialled from anywhere in the world.