Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Making society safer – how Cisco is supporting LastingAsset in its fight against phone fraud

November 28, 2023

Fraud, including scam phone calls and texts, now accounts for over 40% of all crime in England and Wales. The rising crime of impersonation fraud is now leaving more of us wondering whether a call is genuine or a scam, and increasingly sophisticated technology means everyone is susceptible to becoming victims; not just the traditionally vulnerable. But how can you verify the identity of an incoming call with certainty? This was the problem addressed by the inspirational team at LastingAsset, a ground-breaking cyber project from Edinburgh Napier University, and winner of Cisco’s Future Tech Award at the latest Converge Challenge.

Cisco is passionate about enabling innovation to effect positive societal change, which has motivated us to play an active role in Converge Challenge over the last three years, funded through our Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) programme. As Scotland’s springboard for the next generation of academic innovators, this annual event recognises and accelerates the pipeline of potentially transformational technology start-ups, like LastingAsset, emerging from Scotland’s universities. It is co-funded by the Scottish Funding Council, Creative Scotland, all 18 Scottish universities and a network of industry partners, including Cisco.

From impersonation to devastation

So, what made LastingAsset’s submission stand out and deserve Cisco’s best-in-class prize? Impersonation is one of the greatest threats we as citizens face in cybersecurity. So, as a global cybersecurity leader, with the world’s largest non-state threat intelligence team, we were especially gratified to recognise and reward a startup that is developing pioneering ways of tackling phone-based impersonation and imposter scams. Such fraudulent activity can result in substantial financial losses, cause untold damage to individual and organisational reputations, create serious privacy breaches, and produce severe distress amongst innocent victims.

According to the UK Government’s latest fraud strategy – which set out to reduce fraud by 10% on 2019 levels by December 2024 – unsuspecting individuals and organisations in the UK lost a massive £2.35 billion through fraud in 2021. The banking and finance industry alone lost over half of this amount (£1.3 billion), while the cost to society in England and Wales from 2019 to 2020 was £6.8 billion. And according to Hiya’s State of the Call report in 2023, reputation and revenue losses caused by impersonation fraud affect a staggering one in three businesses and 63% of consumers.

A new era of fraud

Once upon a time, such fraud was much more easily detectable through factors such as accents, language barriers and the difficulty perpetrators encountered when deviating from the script. Today, impersonation fraud is far more likely to happen, because scammers are becoming far too familiar with advanced technologies that makes the crime more accessible, accurate and easier to carry out. Predatory criminals can now create bespoke accents and even clone people’s voices, using advanced social engineering techniques, generative AI text to speech based on audio clips simply dragged and dropped into a programme and activated at the click of a button, and speech-to-speech translation.

To tackle the scourge of bad actors targeting innocent people, businesses, and organisations, online and in their own homes, this new level of fraud crime requires new lines of defences to safeguard communication and protect reputations. And Cisco recognised that LastingAsset had a unique answer in its unique core security platform and encryption technology to stop cybercriminals making scam phone calls and duping victims.

Creating safer and seamless communications

Within its platform, LastingAsset offers real-time fraud detection and call spoofing protection, meaning fraudulent calls to a business’s customers can be thwarted before they even happen. Through a combination of cryptography techniques, its innovative solution ensures only legitimate callers are granted access, without violating privacy. Its software development kit can be easily integrated into existing systems and connect with an organisation’s communications infrastructure. Once set up, all incoming calls for customers are protected via a seamless connection between the company’s system and LastingAsset’s own secured cloud services.

For example, with call centres, its solutions are integrated into the company’s VoIP provider and, just as the call is initiated by the agent, the software development kit is notified which then alerts the customer about the incoming call from the business. This platform ensures customers know exactly who is calling them, strengthening company reputation, improving operational efficiency, enhancing customer experience, and building invaluable trust.

Embarking on a transformative journey

Cisco is working with LastingAsset by offering not just financial support, but also mentorship and guidance from its UK and Ireland Chief Technology Officer, Chintan Patel. As well as wider support to develop its concept further to meet the highest industry standards and eventually bring it to market.

On behalf of Cisco, I wholeheartedly congratulate the teams working on this ground-breaking innovation to help make the digital world safer for all. Both the technical team led by Dr Zakwan Jaroucheh, Dipankar Sarkar, and Professor Bill Buchanan OBE, and the commercial team led by Nanik Ramchandani of Imagine Ventures, and Cathy Higginson, Business Development and Relationship Manager at Edinburgh Napier University.

Ever more sophisticated cybercriminals are using the latest technologies to take phone call fraud to a whole new level. But by recognising LastingAsset’s outstanding ideas and ingenuity, we want to help them deliver tangible impact and overcome this predatory form of crime that affects all our society. So, one day none of us will feel the need to question the voice at the end of the line, and instead be assured that what we hear is genuinely what we get.

Leave a comment