Smart and brilliant: Investec Broker Summit details cybercrime as an industry

02 Apr 2019

Cyber security and Brexit were top of the agenda at Investec’s flagship broker summit at Crewe Hall on 7 March. The Cheshire mansion dates to the Jacobean era — an appropriate backdrop considering its most notorious criminal, Guy Fawkes, is a hacker icon.  

It was with Guy Fawkes image that Menny Barzilay, internationally renowned cyber-security expert from Israel, began proceedings. He warned businesses that they must do more to protect themselves.  
 
“For the first time in history, crime is being managed by the smartest people in the world,” Barzilay said. “So it shouldn’t surprise us that cybercrime itself is super smart and creative. We’re seeing cyber-crime ‘companies’ with a CEO, a CTO and even a CFO.”  
 
To highlight the risk to businesses, he hacked an android phone on stage – in just 30 seconds. With the phone in the hands of one of the delegates, Barzilay took control of its camera and took a selfie without warning the user, Barzilay continued to infiltrate the phone’s hardware by using the microphone to secretly record the delegate. ‘Deepfake’ technology, the machine-learning system for swapping faces in videos, might allow this kind of attack to seriously compromise businesses. 
 
Even though attack tools are improving, social engineering will still continue to be a major attack vector for accessing sensitive systems. “One of the biggest lies we’re told as kids is that we are unique,” he said. “Humanity is constantly dealing with the differences between us. Our skin colour, gender, race, languages, gods, culture… but actually people are much more similar than we think.”  
 
‘It shouldn’t surprise us that cyber crime itself is super smart and creative. We’re seeing cyber-crime ‘companies’ with a CEO, a CTO and even a CFO’
Barzilay said this creates the groundwork for the psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. Engineering the behaviour of your employees by cyber criminals turns them into a critical security vulnerability – without them ever realising.  
 
He predicted that 10% of the audience had come from a company that had already been hacked without being aware – and that for many victims of cybercrime, the only evidence they’ve been hacked is when their data crops up on the dark web.  
 
Barzilay did have some tips for brokers looking to improve their cyber security. “One of the most important things for businesses is to use two-factor authentication – confirming your identity by using, for example, a password as well as a fingerprint or a text message”.  
 
“The mobile phone is the entrance to your whole digital life,” Barzilay said. “When you don’t lock it with a password or fingerprint, it is very, very easy to take control over your digital life”. He added – “don’t reuse passwords. When you do, you create a single point of failure for your entire digital ecosystem. Tell that to everyone in your network, no matter where you work.” 
Menny Barzilay
‘When you don’t lock your mobile with a password or fingerprint, it is very, very easy to take control over your digital life.’

Menny Barzilay, co-founder and CEO of Cyber security firm FortyTwo Global

Brexit or bust: speakers predict growth for 2019

One of the most significant predictions, from Investec chief economist Phil Shaw was that the economy will “gain traction” in 2019 — if politicians can deliver clarity on our future relationship with the European Union. 
 
“One reason we’ve seen a 0.4% fall in UK GDP in December is very soft business investment,” explained Shaw. “This is not Project Fear; it’s Project Reality. That’s what all the surveys are saying and it’s certainly what our clients are telling us.” 
 
Citing data from the Office of National Statistics, he said capital expenditure fell back in every quarter of last year – and in real terms it is 3% below where it was a year before. This is during a time when we have a historically low unemployment rate of 4%.  
 
“Clearly Brexit is having a negative impact,” Shaw said. “But if there is clarity on the future EU relationship, businesses and overseas investors will gain the confidence they need to deploy cash already earmarked for the UK.” He believes it is likely we will see some kind of deal in 2019.  
 
Whether the UK leaves with a deal or not, the economy should be propped up by an increase in public spending. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond recently announced plans to unleash £26 billion in the next financial year.  
 
Shaw also drew attention to positive movement in the US-China trade talks, where the dismantling of tariffs would likely lead to an increase in world trade and global growth – which in turn would have a positive impact on the UK economy.  
 
It’s possible that a delay to Brexit could derail this positive outlook, he admitted. Extending Article 50 beyond three months would conflict with the European parliamentary elections; and all 27 nations must agree to any extension – some have good reasons to quibble. 
Phil shaw
If there is clarity on the future EU relationship, businesses and overseas investors will gain the confidence they need to deploy cash already earmarked for the UK.

Phil Shaw, Chief Economist

Watch me whip, watch me nae May

“This has been an unbelievably divisive period in Britain's history and we need to put it behind us as soon as possible,” the former Chief Whip, MP Andrew Mitchell said. “But once we have, we are going to see a tremendous boost to investment once the deal is done. I recently spoke to the people at the Singapore sovereign wealth fund. They said, ‘we've got $2 billion to invest. You need to sort yourselves out.’
 
He pulled no punches on Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement, too, calling it “the worst act of statecraft since the Napoleonic Wars.” If the deal is passed, he said the UK would need to negotiate a trade deal with 27 countries, all of which will be pursuing their own national interest and left with their lowest common denominator. 
Andrew Mitchell
We are going to see a tremendous boost to investment once the deal is done.

Andrew Mitchell , Former Chief whip

Mitchell also questioned whether there was such a thing as a ‘no-deal Brexit’. Governments in such circumstances would likely proceed with a series of mini deals and stand still agreements both temporary and permanent. 
 
“Michel Barnier said about six weeks ago, if there is no deal, we will have to do something to stop a hard border on Northern Ireland,” Mitchell pointed out. “I was amazed that wasn't picked up more widely, because, of course, that is a very revealing comment. It tells us that there is a deal to be done.”