The global pandemic has not only impacted the lives of billions around the world, but it has also forced entire corporate sectors into uncharted territories. Company lawyers, managing directors and attorneys often rely on private investigators to assist with gathering intelligence, investigating facts, and analysing forensic data. In the complex world of corporate investigations, the impact of the pandemic comes when we are already fighting other serious threats, and this unexpected global pandemic may just spell the end of traditional corporate investigations … or will it?
In recent years, Artificial intelligence (AI) has been driving private investigation firms into unknown waters, but the ongoing disruption of the global pandemic has forced firms to rely on machines more than ever.
Technical innovations are making their mark on business operations who are seeing technical advancement at unprecedented levels. Because of this, they are fighting to future proof themselves while they still can.
The corporate intelligence industry has to show that it can deal with the threat of cyber-attacks and uncontrollable risks of the current global pandemic, all while still being able to advise on the fraud detection, prevention, and mitigation.
Those who advise in-house and external lawyers on behalf of clients work in a world of industrial espionage and they search for hidden assets in faraway places. Yet, what might appear like a Bond film has turned into a multi-billion-dollar business at the forefront of cybersecurity, compliance, and detection across all sectors.
In an ever-changing global landscape, how often investigative experts will be forced to adapt and how they adapt to meet these growing demands remains to be seen.
The Rise of AI
The next decade of investigative advisories, maybe more, has been set by global events and the rise of AI may well help intelligence consultants ready themselves for a new trend in mitigating and preventing corporate fraud.
The key to survival through this changing landscape will be the ability to balance new AI technology with human interaction. One reason for this emanates from the generally accepted notion that all algorithms have limits and despite their ability to cast wide nets in a relatively short period of time, with such high stakes involved it is reconciliation with human intelligence corporate industries will no doubt have to rely on.
Other industries will find that the use of AI comes with its own limitations. It is self-evident that AI shines when processing repetitive data, but it needs to be complemented by the unreplaceable human instinct of ‘gut feeling’ that is just as effective a weapon in an industry where there are many unique data points in play.
There are fears that AI forces the industry to rely on technology that may only be a stop-gap but equally could become a tradable commodity.
The most realistic answer is that AI seems to be a useful tool for the industry, but it needs to be led by the hand into the future by the instincts and abilities of human intelligence.
Three themes encapsulate the influence of AI, machine learning and other technologies for the legal and corporation intelligence communities: First, a growing fear of cyber threats as fraud becomes increasingly online and borderless. Second, cost-effective reliability, even under the global circumstances that we are currently facing, particularly for multi-national corporations. And lastly, a desire for increased AI fraud detection and background checks.
Indeed, as fraud advances in its use of technology, fraud detection and prosecution has been aided by moving to more technologically advanced methods, including using databases that have made access to records and information far easier. But as fraud becomes more cyber and more sophisticated, how quickly must firms adopt new technologies such as AI recognition to combat fraud?
AI: advantages and limitations
AI’s biggest advantage is its ability to analyse mass amounts of data and reveal trends in a fraction of the time it would take a human to do the same job. This is why many, if not all, major companies have invested in some form of machine learning and automated technology.
Even start-ups can offer comprehensive background checking and document verification with relative ease and reliability.
The current pandemic makes such technological advances more appealing, as they are unaffected by travel restrictions and other social distancing measures brought in to mitigate the spread of the virus. AI-driven investigative products become much more attractive, offering as they do uninterrupted services in fraud detection, internal investigations and more.
AI can not only filter and analyse data quickly but it can monitor data from accounts to social media and public source activity that can automatically alert users, but also recognise patterns and even make predictions of potentially fraudulent activities.
But it’s not all positive.
Cyber defences can be used to great effect to detect and prevent cyber fraud, but criminals are always adapting to new technologies and inventing new and sophisticated ways of scamming people and businesses. This can be done using AI to imitate human activity, making it difficult for counter AI to detect the algorithms.
If AI cannot make these nuanced distinctions, a fraudster pretending to be someone else may also only be stopped by human intervention.
Other limitations to AI include cost, data accuracy, and data access. Each investigation can be unique and require new algorithms to be developed. Therefore, single-use AI detection does not currently represent a cost-effective return.
Perhaps the most severe limitation of AI is that it leads humans and agencies into reliance on the technology and this false sense of security can be exploited by criminals and fraudsters.
While there are no doubts about the usefulness of AI, it should always be treated with an air of caution; when AI has cast its wide net, it is in the murky waters it cannot reach that the true criminals and fraudsters lie waiting to pounce on complacent companies.
Are the old ways still relevant?
AI cannot recreate the creativity, curiosity, and instinct of human investigation. It is bound by the walls of public record and database access and it is perhaps poignant to remember that.
AI can perform roles but lacks the human touch and the instinct to recognise the pitfalls of searching for something as generic as John Smith in California.
There is no doubt that a blend is required when looking into someone’s past, whether it is for an acquisition, a merger, or a joint venture. Someone who looks clean on the surface may not be and it can take a mixture of thorough AI background checks, some hand-pulled records, and a quiet word with a former employee or partner to find the true scope of someone’s past.
Therefore, human intelligence and the curation of facts from all sources still remain a reliable and relevant tool, even in an AI-driven world.
It is perhaps important that we remember that we ourselves, or more specifically, our brains, are the most sophisticated computers of all and behind all the pageantry and automation of a fraudulent money transfer is a human pulling the strings somewhere. It is not the machine or the company or the shell corporation that is pulling off these activities but instead, at the end of the day, a human.
Yet, as people take advantage of our complex and technologically advanced world to put new and modern spins on ancient techniques of fraud and criminal activity, we would be foolish to think that we can counter, identify, and mitigate their elaborate schemes with human power alone.
Local knowledge and the relationships that form between humans are as essential as the ability to trawl through millions of lines of data in an instant and a reason why it seems, for now at least, there will always be the need for human interaction in any fraud case.
AI will continue to increase in its popularity and will continue to replace certain roles within the investigative world. There needs to be a hybrid approach to corporate intelligence in this new world. The introduction of new technologies is both inevitable and necessary. However, it needs to balance against human intelligence, as usually, it is this human touch that cracks open the most complex of cases.
While AI represents a very accurate way of proving something, a human touch will always be required and it is in the harmonious unionisation of the AI number-crunching skills and the human creativity and intuition that the most intricate of investigations will be unlocked.
Alone, both methods represent a predictable beast that criminals and fraudsters can work around but together they represent a much more comprehensive wall of security to breach. Sidestepping human intelligence is a risk, as is ignoring the power of AI. Therefore, human investigators must use technology to become the best and fastest consultants to lawyers.