Data Manipulation: The Next Big Threat in Cyber Crime

It’s called data manipulation, and it involves not an outright theft of customer data, but instead atweaking or sabotage of that data in order to elicit some type of gain. Industry experts think this type of quieter, slower-burning cyberattack may be the wave of the future.

Here’s what you need to know about data manipulation, so you can keep your business and your consumers protected.     

The goal behind the crime

Fraudsters are using data manipulation to hit businesses in ways that won’t immediately attract attention, letting them fly under the radar while they do serious damage.

With data manipulation, criminals enter a system and modify individual data records in small, difficult to spot ways. Something as simple as a tweak to a credit score, or a single-digit change in a bank routing number, can take months for either a merchant or consumer to notice – during which time, the fraudster has cashed in and moved on. 

Rather than the “smash-and-grab” approach of most fraudulent transactions, data manipulation is a slow-drip fraud scheme that can be running silently in the background, making it even more insidious.

Indeed, although most data manipulation attacks have so far targeted theft, with just a little creativity these fraudsters could easily unleash chaos in bigger ways. Consider what would happen if someone hacked and manipulated data in the stock market or a city’s emergency management systems … a chilling thought.

The price of the crime

The small tweaks that are the hallmark of data manipulation can certainly result in significant financial losses if left unchecked over time, especially as the adjusted data gets compounded throughout a business’ tables and spreadsheets.

But dollars and cents aren’t the only potential costs at stake.

Once it’s been discovered that a system has been manipulated, the victimized company must not only deal with financial losses, it must also reasonably wonder whether other areas of the business have also been compromised. Suddenly, none of a company’s data can be assumed to be legitimate and unsullied. Everything must be checked, re-checked and secured anew. The time and expense to do so can be enormous.     

The remedy for data manipulation attacks

Cyber Command, a U.S. agency dedicated to preventing cybercrime under the U.S. Strategic Command, is now intensely focused on preventing data manipulation. However, as a government organization, its main objective is to protect federal associations and officials. Businesses are left to their own defenses when it comes to securing and ensuring the integrity of their data.

The truth is, data manipulation is just one of many schemes that your business faces in the ongoing war against cyber crime. That’s why a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity – particularly one that combines human intelligence and fraud expertise with advanced machine-learning algorithms – is your company’s best defense.

To learn more about adding security to your sales, talk to one of our fraud protection analysts. Email us at to get started today.

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