Fraudsters forced telecoms chief to come up with conference call answers – Sunday Independent Business
Gabrielle Monaghan from The Sunday Independent Business interviewed Gavan Doherty, CEO of 247meeting, on how he reacted to a fraud by creating a great conference call confidentiality app. Discover the interview!
In December 2010, Ireland was in the doldrums. Not only had the country just been forced into an EU/IMF bailout programme, it was blanketed by snow and ice – public transport, traffic and trade had ground to a halt during one of the coldest Irish months on record.
But when a worried Gavan Doherty sat in his snow-bound Sandyford office, it was neither the weather nor the economic woes that were on his mind.
Instead, it was fraud that posed an existential threat to 247Meeting, a conference call firm he had set up five years earlier.
The entrepreneur had just received a phone-call from BT, one of his biggest clients, to tell him that his conference call network had been hijacked all weekend long by hackers, who had used it to make thousands of expensive calls to locations such as Cuba and Yemen. The worst was still to come: Gavan was expected to foot the bill.
“When BT told me I owed them €186,000, I was aghast,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘okay, we’re done’. We certainly couldn’t pay the bill – it amounted to at least a year’s revenue at the time.”
Somehow, the former telecom engineer managed to turn the crisis into an opportunity.
“My account manager and head of finance eventually met with BT and said ‘we’ll take some of the hit and we will also move a lot of our spend over to BT from other clients’,” the now-44 year old says. “We ended up doing a three-year work-out deal with them.”
The episode also prompted Gavan to apply to Enterprise Ireland’s research and development fund to finance the creation of a new algorithm that could prevent fraudsters from hacking into group conference calls.
The algorithm was patented in Europe and the US in 2016 and a smartphone app based on it was finally rolled out for free six months ago.
The app enables users to hold an instant conference call on the go, without the need for a dial-in number, a pin code – or any awkward small-talk about the weather while waiting for other users to join the call. That’s because instead of dialling into a conference call, the app ‘dials out’ to all guests at once.
The app also offers the host more control over a call, by showing them a picture on their phone of everyone who is taking part. This feature especially reassures high-profile managers concerned about someone eavesdropping on their confidential calls.