At Neotas, we place people are at the core of everything we do, believe in and value. Whether it is the Neotas team, our clients, our advisory board of experts or the subjects we look at, each and every single day our focus is people.
When we consider our clients, it is obvious to understand why we value their involvement and spend considerable time nurturing and developing relationships. Our clients are joining us on a journey and to be their travel companion is an honour. They are breaking the norms and widely accepted traditional methodologies of tick box due diligence and employee screenings to embrace the digital information era. They are setting new standards in their sectors and embracing the principles laid out by regulators to go beyond. The willingness and drive of key individuals to embrace the future of due diligence is what drives us forwards each day.
Moving to our company level, Neotas is the accumulation of individuals who have spent their careers thus far realising that people are at the core of everything. From a Chief Information Security Officer, with the latest cyber security measures and endless budgets, who suffered a significant intellectual property breach at the hands of an employee to an officer within the Cyber Crime Unit of the National Crime Agency who spent his days fighting crime online – the consistent factor was always a person at the end of a computer keyboard. From the financial trader whose every decision was made and affected by the actions of individuals to the military officer who spent their career focused on counter terrorism operations overseas understanding and targeting individuals – people were at the core. Regardless of sector, people are the consistent factor. People affect the security and growth of every company and nation around the world, whether positively or negatively. Combining this realisation with our knowledge and experience, we have developed and grown Neotas and our platform to aid decision making across all sectors by providing increased situational awareness of people whether for business deals, security and background screening, or fit and proper compliance requirements.
When Neotas conduct due diligence research on an individual or company, we focus on the person. We unveil all active and passive content relating to the individual including networks, associations, interests, companies, motivators, and behavioural and personality traits plus so many other aspects. We don’t follow a set checklist and set of rules because each subject is unique and we treat their online footprint as such. By putting the subject first, we are able to develop a profile from which risks, flags, and areas of concern or conversely positive attributes can be highlighted. We approach each case as an individual and not a series of tick box confirmations.
So how do we do all of this? You’ve guessed it. People are at the core of our platform, company and research. Our propriety methodologies and platform have been developed by our amazing team. And while Neotas, like many other companies, have embraced the AI, Big Data, NLP, machine learning technology wave, we have also realised that all of these systems are only as good as the designer and the person driving them. This is why our team are so important to us. In order to produce the best research we must we continually train and develop methodologies and tools with the best analysts. And that is what Neotas does every day.
With people as our focus, our passion, and our enabler, Neotas are taking due diligence to the next level. To find out more about what we do and how we can assist with your due diligence and investigative requirements and procedures, please feel free to contact us and a member of our team will be happy to assist.
I started with Neotas about three months ago having spent the previous five years in financial crime. What I have learned in this short time period has blown my mind and if I had known then what I know now, fraud investigations would be dealt with in a completely different manner. Without a doubt, open source intelligence (OSINT) is the future of due diligence and KYC (Know Your Customer).
Working in Financial Crime, I regularly had to investigate cases of fraud or money laundering and prove, without doubt, that a customer had been a victim of fraud. The problem is that fraud investigators are more often than not required to work on gut feelings and instinct more than on actual proof. Don’t get me wrong, working in fraud requires a lot of instinct and trusting that gut feeling, however having evidence to prove the fraud would also be more than helpful. While fraud investigators do have tools to aid their investigations like bank checks and credit files checks, you’re often left questioning what does that really tell you about the person? That they have good credit and their bank account matches their identity? What if you had a husband and wife working together to scam the system? She may be telling you that she and her husband are separated and he has stolen her details. As an investigator you are not able to talk to the husband as he isn’t your customer, therefore you have to take the wife’s word as fact. However by using OSINT you can learn more about the individual including looking at their social media profiles to see if there is any evidence of a divorce or separation. Moreover, is there any evidence to tell you they are working together? If a child has impersonated their parent and both mother and daughter have the same name and live at the same address, there are only two companies in the world whose internal checks would be able to tell them apart. Most companies would accept an application in the mother’s details and send the money to the daughter’s bank account however by using OSINT you can look deeper into the daughters online behaviour, have they recently come into money? Are they talking about it?
Whether we realise it or not, almost everything about you is online. From date of birth on birth records, to your address, email addresses, phone numbers, interests, and key individuals, the list is often endless. The reason for this is simple. Most people do not read the endless pages of terms and conditions or adopt privacy settings, moreover most people feel that they can be themselves online and that is where they will often give away their plots and plans. By using OSINT you can find out a multitude of sins. A professional money launderer may look like the perfect customer from the outside: the credit file looks good; the bank matches; and they use the product regularly and always pay back on time. Someone like this may show up on a CDD or EDD list but after a few simple checks no issues would be found. If compliance departments and fraud departments had knowledge of OSINT they could look deeper into the individual, the house they are living in, can they afford that on their salary? The company they are a trustee or director of, does it make sense that the customer is involved with a company like that? OSINT paints a picture of what is going on and tells you what a standard background and credit check cannot.
Simply put, most financial crime departments do not have enough knowledge of OSINT and therefore follow “a checklist system” that was written in a policy because the regulator told you to. The problem is that as long as you are following the minimum requirements put forward by the regulator, financial companies will believe that the check list system is sufficient. It is not and this is allowing fraudsters to continue to get away their crimes while they are laughing at you publically on Facebook. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that fraud investigators are not doing enough, what I am saying is investigations need to go further, OSINT is the future and before long the FCA will make this a requirement.
Neotas is a due diligence company that has developed an analyst driven Open Source Intelligence platform. The platform is used in many areas from financial regulations such as KYC/AML, Anti-Bribery, Modern Slavery Act, plus staff background screening, due diligence for VC and PE investments and lastly human vulnerability assessments as part of a cyber security strategy.
In 2009, while in the process of applying to University in the United States, a rumour began to circulate that universities were likely to review the Facebook pages of applicants for any disqualifying content. At the time, Facebook was still an up and coming social media platform rather than the pervasive giant it is today but nevertheless I had an account and I started to worry. Having grown up in Europe, where the legal drinking age was lower than twenty-one, some of my content immediately fell into the ‘disqualifying’ category. In a panic, I rushed to remove any photograph, post or connection between myself and alcohol. Moreover, ever since that first rumour, I have regularly monitored content relating to myself through search engines and have regulated privacy settings on social media to manage my online footprint for jobs, university, and my own personal safety.
Fast forward a few years to when I joined Neotas in 2017. I felt confident that I had been actively sanitising my online footprint for years and everything was good. In an instance, however, I was amazed, not only by just how much information could be found about me with the right training and tools, but also how relevant every part of one’s online footprint could be. With every exercise or fitness application comes the ability to live track your activity and location. With every geolocated holiday snap, you are telling the world that your home is most likely left empty. From fraud to kidnapping, from robbery to stalking, the applications are only limited by one’s imagination.
As I have progressed as a Junior Analyst at Neotas, I have uncovered everything from hateful posts plastered across Twitter and Facebook and evidence of drug use, but also people using aliases to avoid bullying. To think that I was worried about a few photographs from a graduation party seems so insignificant with the material I have uncovered. I have seen how finding even the smallest element of risk or concern about a person, from either professional or a personal point of view, can tell you more about a person than any background check or interview. More importantly, the truth of the matter is that this is only going to increase as more and more information about us is digitised. Google’s recent announcement for its Google Lens app, for example, will allow the user to turn their camera into a search box, where anything it is pointed at is searched using artificial intelligence. A future where facial recognition on a phone camera brings up their social media profiles or any other online content with a picture of them is no longer science fiction but something that is possible and is on our horizon. While this may seem a frightening future, the reality is that most of this information is already available, if one simply knows where and how to look for it.
What may or may not have been a rumour back in 2009 is a definite reality in 2017, and not just for university applications, but for any prospective relationship, both personal and professional. With insider threats posing the single most dangerous issue in today’s professional world, the standard background or credit checks are simply missing the critical information. With people putting so much of their lives up online, at Neotas we are able to go beyond the standard investigation to obtain a profile of the subject rather than completing a tick in the checklist.
Moreover, content is contextualised to formulate a complete profile of the individual so the rather innocent photographs of me with an alcoholic drink all those years ago would not be an issue today with Neotas’ analyst driven platform.