INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL ARSSENIEV
CEO OF PICSEL
By Stéphane Alaux, E Reputation Expert
Founder of E Réputation Net Wash
Daniel arsseniev is today a world-renowned expert in the identification of identity and document fraud, President of PICSEL SAS, a company specialising in economic intelligence and risk management.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND AND TRAINING?
Originally, I have an economic background (DEUG SEGMI – Economic Sciences, Management, Mathematics, Computer Science).
My journey for me began when I touched my first computer. I was 12 years old. At that time (1988), I was frustrated not to have a console at home while all my friends had one. At school, it was difficult to share conversations with them at playtime because I had nothing to report in my evolution from one game to another…
We had computer workshops with the day-care centre where we did “programming” by entering a formula to change the colour of the screen. But it didn’t fly so high, just to keep us busy on Wednesdays…
My mother started working as an interpreter/translator. She bought a computer as a working tool. I remember: it was a Packard Bell, a 286 DX. CGA screen (4 colours). At that time the mouse did not yet exist. To launch a program we used MS DOS (Microsoft Data Operating System), the Windows 3.1 interface was not yet in use! As I was really not allowed to touch it, I discovered the joys of computing when the whole house was asleep (for anecdote, I programmed my alarm clock in the middle of the night to be sure to have peace).
Later on, when we started technology classes, we had to build a dimmer switch. In a dimmer there is a dimmer (of course), some electronic components, all soldered on an integrated circuit. Someone once brought along a simplified diagram of a Canal Plus decoder and the program for the chip that allowed the image to be decrypted. A group of us just wanted to see if we could make one…. It ended up being a huge business. We had our ups and downs, but we already had a notion of “profit” and how money could be a key that opened certain doors. This didn’t stop me from continuing my studies, obtaining a BAC B (equivalent to ES – Economic and Social Sciences) and completing PARIS X NANTERRE!
I left university at the end of my third year. I was starting to lose interest between classes, tutorials and odd jobs in the catering industry and my parallel activities, and I didn’t feel like I was in the right place to continue. Above all, I found it difficult to project myself into the future with my studies and my diplomas as luggage. I managed to get a job as an intern in a small brokerage firm that mainly traded on US secondary markets such as the S&P500 and NASDAC. The action really started around 3:30 pm because of the time differences with Wall STREET. I was dealing with filing or reading shareholder meetings.
That’s also when I wore my first suit, and went to nightclubs like all the young people. But instead of flirting, I ‘befriended’ a bunch of friends who were in the criminal justice system. I started to interest people in my computer skills…. That’s when I realised that I could do something else that I liked and that required a thorough knowledge of CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design/Publishing). The rest is common knowledge: an address book ranging from the Marseilles and Corsican milieu to the Colombian cartels, endless work orders, trips to the other side of the continent… And increasingly in-depth skills… especially in psychology and human relations.
Even on the day of my arrest with several cases on my back, I discovered another universe with another category of people, as interesting as those in the world of organised crime. I never limited myself to wanting to be part of a clan and to remain loyal to it. I have always known how to ‘compartmentalise’ my relationships and there are a lot of secrets that I will take to my grave.
This is why I have a certain amount of experience that is of interest to the business world, which is more focused on economic intelligence. Risk management takes a back seat.
To conclude this question: as you can see, my background is very atypical! I could have summarised and defined it in a few words. But as soon as I left my native country, nothing was simple or ordinary for me anymore!
WHAT IS YOUR COMPANY’S VOCATION? WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?
When I started a legal activity, I felt more like a consultant with a vocation to transmit a certain knowledge. In the end, I found myself with even more proposals, one more interesting than the others, than those I had received in my early days in organised crime.
The book I wrote (441, Faux et usage de faux – Ed Florent MASSOT), was basically just a “final point” in a life, or “a new page”. This book had a certain success which allowed me to start an official and especially legal career.
Business intelligence is a bit like doing research to improve the security conditions linked to the identity of the society in which we evolve. I’m not saying that I’m trying to make the world a better place. Just a little safer!
My clients? The day the police invited themselves into my living room, they asked me exactly the same question… What makes my reputation before that of the company I founded, is my professionalism and my discretion. But to answer this question, my clients are essentially those who need our skills within a defined legal framework!
I plan to create a school for data processing in risk management always in the framework of identity and all types of documents that are linked to them!
YOUR BEGINNINGS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE YELLOW LINE HAVE OBVIOUSLY INFLUENCED YOUR PROFESSIONAL ORIENTATION;
ONE FEELS THE PASSION WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS JOB?
Yes, I do. I like to repeat this sentence: “Every morning I get up: I love what I do! No two days are alike.
All my days are rich in events, whether they are in a purely theoretical framework where we break our heads on a complex legal set-up but which leads to a satisfactory result for everyone; or whether they are practical where it is always interesting to manipulate a material or a software for pure creation!
Sometimes I have days when the result only emerges at the last minute. And that’s what’s so exciting.
Your expertise in the fight against document and identity fraud is rare.
How are you perceived by your clients and competitors?
To answer this question, I have to consider my family situation. I now have two children, which does not allow me to travel as I used to. It’s a growing thing when you have the status of a father and the responsibilities that come with it.
I tell my clients to reassure them that what was, is no longer. At first, the big banditry and the business that goes with it, not that I am no longer interested, but I simply got tired of seeing almost the same thing. Finally, I come from the old school and I was “educated” by “old-timers” who are no longer of this world for the most part. And as a result, today’s environment has nothing to do with what it used to be. There is no longer that reliability where there are rules of conduct and people of words. It has really become a rare commodity!
It was as if I had contracted the virus of false papers at the age of 20, which I knew how to master and came out with a vaccine !!!!
As for my competitors, I don’t really think I have any. I surveyed the field before launching into this activity. What I see reassures me insofar as France, in terms of the fight against identity and document fraud, remains “a wasteland” and everything remains to be built. People who call themselves specialists do nothing but sell ineffective software solutions that will only slow down fraudsters by a few extra minutes. Fraud is a scourge that I consider to be paranormal activity. It doesn’t evolve… it mutates. And it is thanks to competitors’ solutions that we see pharmacies training themselves to make fewer anomalies to pass all the checks!
PICSEL will soon publish a report on the current solutions of our competitors to demonstrate how useless it is!
RISK MANAGEMENT IS A POORLY KNOWN OR LITTLE KNOWN PROFESSION.
CAN YOU GIVE US AN OVERVIEW?
Risk Management is a certain responsibility to validate the veracity of information of an entity, whether it is a natural or legal person, in order to obtain financial or logistical means.
Today it has become like an essential filter in the relationship between entities and their creditors or service providers (whether they are car rental companies, or financial organisations or anything that is closely or remotely related to identity).
The losses for 2014 of French banks amount to an average of 70 million per organisation. Don’t ask me where I got this statistic, I won’t answer!
There are 14 banking organisations in France. I’m not even counting the parallel credit organisations and all the ancillary service providers related to ID. Do the math yourself. And above all the potential to create added value. There is really a lot to do!
FRENCH COMPANIES SEEM UNPREPARED AND OFTEN NAÏVE ON SUBJECTS SUCH AS: E-REPUTATION, DATA PROTECTION, IDENTITY FRAUD, ETC.
DO YOU SENSE THE BEGINNINGS OF AN AWARENESS AMONG COMPANIES OF THE ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL IMPACT OF LOSING CONTROL OF ONE’S E-REPUTATION AND THE INABILITY TO PROTECT ONE’S DATA?
Not really! There is always a time of adaptation between the pure activity of a company and the consideration of a security installation to maintain a reputation in the system. You don’t think about installing an alarm system when you build a house. There are lots of factors that people take into consideration before they think about protection, such as the environment, etc…
I don’t think it’s a question of naivety, but a question of cost in the first instance. Secondly, people find it difficult to accept the idea of setting up a filter system within their activity! It may depend on the sensitivity of the data processing and the trust that can be placed in an external body.
People don’t really think about their image in terms of the product they are marketing, but about the benefit it can bring. They only start thinking about it when the damage is done!
AS IN ANY YOUNG MARKET, WE CAN SEE THE EMERGENCE OF COMPANIES THAT INVENT THEMSELVES AS “EXPERTS”, INEFFECTIVE OFFERS AND PSEUDO SOLUTIONS…
WHAT IS THE REAL STATE OF THE MARKET AND COMPETITION?
that’s the problem! It’s like asking a garage owner to build a house. What makes these companies call themselves experts? I will argue this answer with an example to understand why the state of the market remains null and void!
A bank detects a scam not at the moment of taking out a loan or opening an account… but once the protagonists disappear with the financial flows! It is at this point that the bank, in its logical reading scheme, decides to look into the documents that allowed the fraud to take place: look for the mistake the bank made! Either a lack of control and therefore the fraud is due to a human failure, or documents without flagrant anomalies but that the control did not allow to detect the fraud! In both cases, the bank lodges a complaint and we try to trace the chain, which is difficult when we know that there is already a time lag between the moment of the fraud and the moment of the investigation following the awareness!
Companies invent themselves as experts based on cases of fraud reported in the past without really taking into consideration that these frauds have been perfected or even evolved into others that are still undetectable!
And consequently a filter is put in place with no apparent results!
ARE THERE SERIOUS AND EFFECTIVE TRAINING COURSES IN THE FIELD OF RISK MANAGEMENT?
In my opinion, there is no serious and effective training in this field. There is so much laxity in the control of identity-related documents that fraud becomes child’s play! It only takes a methodical and logical mind to understand how to “fly under the radar”.
“ANONYMITY” IS THE CANCER OF THE E-REPUTATION OF COMPANIES AND INDIVIDUALS:
++ FALSE COMMENTS, FALSE OPINIONS, AIMED AT WEAKENING OR DESTROYING THE REPUTATION OF COMPANIES
DEFAMATION INTENDED TO DENIGRATE AN INDIVIDUAL OUT OF REVENGE ETC..
IT WOULD BE REDUCTIVE TO LIST ONLY THESE TWO EXAMPLES…
MY QUESTION IS SIMPLE, WILL THERE EVER BE A CONTROL, A TRUST RANK OR A SCALE OF CONFIDENCE TO ATTRIBUTE TO INTERNET PUBLICATIONS?
We’re getting there! I see that society is moving towards technologies that are more and more connected to the Net! A best-selling book in a bookstore makes 300,000 copies while a writer who came out of nowhere the day after he turned 16 gets his blog downloaded 3,000,000 times, if not more! And that’s just one example!
My first idea for PICSEL was to create a rating agency for banks and other identity-related organisations in the form of separate criteria related to fraud! The more anomalies in the documents that have been detected in the fraud, the more the bank gets a bad grade to improve the controls. But if I do that I have a conflict of interest: I cannot be judge and jury!
I think this will emerge one day!
IN CONCLUSION, WILL COUNTERFEITERS, HACKERS AND CYBERCRIMINALS ALWAYS BE ONE STEP AHEAD OF THE EXISTING SYSTEM?
Pablo Escobar said that the traffickers are 3 years ahead of the police’s investigation methods.
I think it’s 5 years because identity fraud is harder to detect!
Society today has become so complex, governed by laws that it is difficult to detect fraud without going outside a specific legal framework!
Even worse! The means of communication today do not allow to trace, detect and invest an officine or a criminal entity on the one hand because a very strict legal framework does not allow it and on the other hand, the organized crime environment uses a technology largely exceeded by the government.
Moreover, trusting people like me who have an extraordinary experience of innovating frauds is not yet common!
The Ministry of the Interior has set up the SIAT (Service Interministériel d’Assistance Technique) – the infiltrators. This service allows the payment of informers who denounce people in increased activity for any crime! The question remains the same: in what legal framework and what are their methods of apprehension? And if the authorities did not have this minimum, how do you think they would be effective on the ground? They always arrive at the moment the shell lies on the ground… to be really effective they would have to be there at the moment the bullet is fired…
We are just starting to train programmers to counter hacking and try to protect society… I don’t know if psychological behaviour is taken into consideration because wanting to protect a system knowing that you have the same weapons to knock it out is a permanent questioning. Hopefully, in the long run, the E reputation will produce a result!