Five members of a suspected criminal gang allegedly stole the identities of 700 British citizens and have been arrested on suspicion of an attempted £500,000 UK tax fraud. Cyber security company Thales believes this case is another reminder to the government that security needs to be built into the design of each digital reform initiative.
Ross Parsell of Thales comments on the case: “The news over the weekend that a man in Bologna collected more than £100,000 in government rebates over more than a year, after stealing the identity of 700 UK citizens, is another reminder to government that security needs to be built into the design of each digital reform initiative. In order for citizens and the government to get the most out of migrating certain interactions online, for instance collecting welfare benefits via Universal Credit, there is an overriding need to provide some form of secure identification credentials. Being able to verify, manage and protect the identity of claimants will be central to the success of the programme.
MPs are absolutely right to warn that the Universal Credit system presents a serious fraud risk. Although the Public Sector Network (PSN) will provide a secure back-end communications infrastructure, a question mark still remains over whether the government will be able to verify, manage and protect the identity of claimants in still under question.
At the moment it’s possible to apply for a passport or renew a driving licence online, but in these cases citizens are making payments to the government. We are yet to have a government system which pays money in the other direction to the public which is where the risk lies. If a high percentage of transactions are fraudulent, the government could come under severe pressure. With 1.56 million people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance at a minimum of £56.25 a week, just that element of welfare presents a £4.56 billion fraud risk over the course of a year.
Piggybacking on a bank’s identification system could be a low cost solution for the government in using two-factor authentication with chip & pin. In return, a bank could receive opportunities for marketing to claimants.”