Fraud Teams Need Intelligence, Too
Part 1 in a 3-part interview series with former Gemini Advisory CEO and current Recorded Future VP of Fraud Solutions, Andrei Barysevich
On March 16th, 2021, revolutionary fraud analytics provider Gemini Advisory was acquired by Recorded Future, and recently rebranded as Recorded Future Payment Fraud Intelligence. I sat down with Andrei Barysevich, the former Gemini Advisory CEO and current Recorded Future VP of Fraud Solutions to discuss the early trials and tribulations of Gemini, the transition to Recorded Future Payment Fraud Intelligence, and his thoughts on the future of payment fraud for an exclusive three-part interview series.
- Part I: Fraud Teams Need Intelligence, Too
- Part II: E-Skimming to Crypto Fraud, the Modern Ways Fraudsters Steal Money
- Part III: Preventing Payment Fraud: Why We Need a Proactive Approach to Turn the Tables
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
What was the main influence behind starting a company focused on payment fraud?
The driving force was always the idea that intelligence on payment fraud didn't truly exist. Being in the threat intelligence space for many years and seeing the positive effect intelligence provided on a daily basis for the broader cybersecurity team, I was always under the impression that the same level of intelligence should be applicable to fraud teams. However, fraud teams were to some degree still viewed as an auxiliary security team, and only given the breadcrumbs of intelligence rather than having their own dedicated intelligence program.
Were there any other companies providing intelligence on payment fraud, or was Gemini Advisory the first one to really bring intelligence to this space?
I don’t believe there are any companies outside of Gemini Advisory (now Recorded Future Payment Fraud Intelligence) who relentlessly focus on specifically solving this problem. There are intelligence companies that claim to support fraud as a use case. However, being in this space for many years, I've seen for myself that very few of these companies had, or could even have, sufficient subject matter expertise and capabilities to support every fraud use case. Many competitors use very manual processes that only scratch the surface of what Recorded Future can bring to bear. Additionally, these services are more tailored and priced to support the largest financial institutions, leaving mid-tier and smaller banks underserved.
With these services, the approach is heavily reliant on manually collecting intelligence since they don’t have a platform or data feed specifically developed around payment fraud. There is only so much a talented analyst can find out there, and it’s difficult for them to produce the gathering and delivery of quality intelligence on a daily basis. Significant problems would arise when an intelligence company lost one or two people who are very skilled in uncovering fraud, as there would immediately be a huge drop in the quality of intelligence produced and delivered, as expected clients would quickly become unhappy.
In addition, the level of intelligence that was produced was typically low-hanging fruit and would often have little impact on key fraud metrics. There was no desire or expertise to go deeper and try to understand what else is out there, except providing some records on credit cards found on the dark web. There was no company, and there is still no company, outside of what is now Recorded Future Payment Fraud Intelligence, focusing on the full circle of fraud and trying to understand clients, of all sizes, and their needs, and developing tools that allow them to access a consistent stream of quality intelligence on a daily basis.
Going back to the start of Gemini Advisory, what were some of the early challenges the company faced and some of the biggest early successes?
I would say that the biggest challenge was proving our business case to clients, and to help them understand they should be allocating resources and money to something they’ve never really done before. We had to go through many hoops where the bank has had a negative experience where they had been promised something similar, but it was nowhere near as intricate or thought out as our product. For us, it wasn’t simply building the use case or explaining to them that what we do will be impactful, but also overcoming the objections our prospects had because of previous vendor relationships.
When we onboarded one of the biggest card networks in the United States they told us that the quality of our data and the way we approach problem solving was entirely different from what they’ve seen, and they’ve seen everything. We’ve become a trusted partner for them, and have been for many years. That gives us a sense of purpose, it tells us that what we’ve built and what we continue to build is truly impactful.
Is there a story or anecdote that you can share when you realized the company was having a real impact helping financial institutions proactively block fraudulent transactions?
I don’t want to limit the scope to transactions, because what we’ve built is full circle. For example, we identify and disclose new and cutting-edge tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) for stealing card data, we predict trends, we identify sources of data breaches, we disrupt malware dissemination by disclosing methods that the bad guys are using. We alert merchants, issuers, merchant acquirers, processors: we’ve become a company that’s embedded in the full cycle of payment card processing.
We’re at the point where our clients come to us and say “we want to be your partners, not just your clients,” and for myself that’s when I began to truly realize the impact we’re having. We always had this idea that we want to have a bi-directional relationship with our clients, where they would be willing and comfortable to sharing their data with us because they know our intelligence is going to amplify what they provide by a significant factor, to not only help them prevent fraud but to help others fight back against the bad guys as well.
What can financial institutions do to try and evade fraudsters?
We’ve gotten to a point where our clients realize how our intelligence helps them make better decisions on a daily basis, and how they can actually use our intelligence to inflict heavy losses on the bad guys since their cards are essentially worthless on the dark web.
We have to understand that fraud is not just a random thing: it’s a business with a very tangible Return on Investment (ROI). For example, the bad guys know that if they invest a dollar, they want to see something like $20 in return. But if they’re continuing to invest that dollar day in and day out, and they start seeing losses, they’re going to quickly realize that what they’ve been doing is no longer working. Fraudsters are looking for easy targets, and as soon as they’re met with resistance, they’re likely to look elsewhere. We need to help our clients reduce their attack surface, right? We’re helping them do that for payment fraud, and this is really at the crux of why we built our product.
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