Cybersecurity and the Internet of Things: Time for Biometrics?
By David Orme, SVP of IDEX Biometrics
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing at a rapid pace, with connected devices and white goods entering our domestic and working environments faster than ever before. Now, thanks to the advent of Wi-Fi, what we once deemed to be white goods are increasingly becoming connected and ‘smart’. It’s now possible to order a pizza, replenish the fridge and download a film to watch, all within ten minutes and without leaving the comfort of your armchair using IoT technology – what bliss!
IoT is, undoubtedly, making life much more straightforward. Gone is the need to trawl shops, to battle for that last space in the supermarket car park or struggle through the high street with bags full of shopping. IoT lets us delegate important every day, but mundane, tasks to connected goods, leaving us free to focus on the more complex and fun things in life. If your fridge can order the milk for you automatically (and if it doesn’t already, chances are you will in due course own a fridge that can), that’s one less thing to think about on the way home from work in a busy modern life.
Yet like most good news, IoT comes with a few caveats. Chief among these is the issue of cybersecurity.
Who’s charging to your account?
For a connected device to take actions on your behalf, be that a payment when your intelligent fridge re-orders the milk, or a smart TV granting or refusing permission for a child to download or view particular media, there has to be a process of authentication. In other words, the device or provider has to be sure that the right person is making the request, just as they do when you use a payment card conventionally. Your connected fridge has to be sure that it’s you who just ordered champagne and caviar, and asked for the charge to be placed on your account/card, rather than it being your teenager, or the cleaner, or someone who’s hacked into your fridge and made fraudulent transactions. Let’s also not forget that your manufacturer or service provider has to make sure that it is a real fridge and that it belongs to you, so that it knows it is talking to the right appliance. After all, manufacturers need to be able to authenticate that it is the right fridge receiving requests from the right person, as well as authenticating the payment.
As a society we are used to authenticating our transactions, it happens daily. Usually the process involves a PIN or a password — when we use our card in store or check our bank balance, for instance. The problem is, we know that these methods of authentication are no longer fit for purpose. For example, it may be easy for criminals to guess or uncover a PIN correctly, while passwords are also often compromised .
Indeed, the constantly-repeated advice that passwords must be unique, complex, but never recorded, provides a perfect example of why this authentication method has had its day. If forecasts are correct, there will be more than 20 billion devices connected to the IoT by 2020 and a good proportion will be directly connected to payments. Providing cyber criminals with up to 20 billion more opportunities, particularly if those devices rely on outdated authentication protocols.
The answer’s at your fingertips
To secure the things that we treasure, a higher level of authentication is required, one that is entirely personal to us and impossible to replicate. Biometrics are the answer for the burgeoning IoT. Manufacturers of smart goods must look to include fingerprint sensors into connected devices themselves, so that authentication can take place on site, without information being sent into cyberspace. Locally stored biometric data for authentication is virtually impossible for criminals to hack or intercept, and impossible for anybody to replicate in person. The only person who can authenticate an action, permission or transaction, where biometrics are involved is the person whose fingerprint is held as a record on the device.
Biometric authentication will end the concerns people currently have about the implications of devices being lost or stolen, and even sold on. Using biometrics to authenticate gives users a truly personalised and secure IoT experience.
After all, if the time comes for somebody to order several magnums of champagne and kilos of caviar from a smart fridge in your home, don’t you want to be absolutely sure that person is you?
How to identify the signs that your IT department need restructuring
Eric Lefebvre, Chief Technology Officer at Sovos
For firms to execute transformations and meet their overall vision, it is crucial that their CIOs are able to recognise the signs that their department is in need of some internal change. In the current economic climate, CIOs working to fulfil their organisation’s priorities and meet business goals might hesitate to acknowledge that their IT department needs restructuring, never mind be able to identify the signs.
However, these problems rarely fix themselves and organisational restructuring requires conviction and determination from leadership for it to occur successfully. So, what are some of the key signs that CIOs should look out for?
Struggling to keep up with industry demands
CIOs unsurprisingly are working in an extremely demanding environment at the moment. Meeting these evolving demands is crucial for companies. When demands are not met and not handled properly, this can have a lasting impact on organisational goals and objectives, and even impact the way in which transformations are put into effect.
Depending on the organisation’s structure, the way in which being unable to keep up with demands manifests itself can differ. Despite double digit reductions across the industry, the search for talent across the tech world continues, project costs continue to rise as the cost of labour has increased and schedules have been disrupted by significant attrition. Many companies will also find business costs, such as that of third-party software, are higher than planned and technology debt continues to pile up faster than it can be sunset.
Whilst leadership teams might dedicate their department’s attention on the factors discussed above, they may find that their team will fall short when it comes to timely deliverables and helping maintain your organisation’s tech stack and guide its business transformations. Looking beyond the immediate problems of high costs and considering an internal reshuffle may be the solution for many IT departments.
Internal conflict within the team
Organisational designs with underlying issues can cause constant friction, especially when they go unacknowledged. An IT department that lives in conflict will certainly be reflected in results and less than successful tech transformations. CIOs will find that by adopting an organisational design which works through staffing issues, will better innovate, especially if they can all work together.
Department leads should have a strong understanding of their team’s work environment and guide them through any long-term or potential problems. When an individual is working in a demanding or complex industry, working well with your team shouldn’t be the main impediment to innovation. By acting quickly to eliminate internal conflict, CIOs can better lead and ensure their team’s focus is entirely on producing more optimal outcomes.
Delays are commonplace
When a large amount of your team’s time is spent setting objectives, budgets and timelines for the projects they are working on, it is vital that they are met. When delays are coming from the IT department, they will inevitably hinder the development of any business transformation, especially if it prompts teams to spend excessive amounts of time rearranging budgets and timelines and therefore hindering innovation.
IT departments are a crucial aspect in many different parts of a company’s transformations, so remaining on track when it comes to timelines and innovation is critical to operational plans. If delays have become commonplace in an IT team, and external factors are impacting projects, CIOs should look at restructuring an IT department to solve these issues.
The strongest team relationships do not happen by accident and are the result of good planning, strong leadership and a motivated team. CIOs can ensure this by providing vision and long-term strategy with clear goals and objectives to produce high levels of quality output.
When internal issues are noticed in an IT department, and are noticeably impacting team morale or productivity, this should indicate the need for departmental restructuring. Be that due to an inability to meet market demands, issues with productivity and meeting deadlines or internal conflict, these issues all risk a department’s functionality and an organisation’s ability to achieve its goals. In short, don’t overlook the warning signs!
The need for simpler cross-border payments must be a priority for all banks
Mushegh Tovmasyan – Founder of Zenus Bank
Despite the transformative changes we have seen in the banking sector over the last decade, there remains a considerable disparity in accessing financial services from country to country and even vital day-to-day services such as cross-border payments or funds transfers.
A strong emphasis on banking personalization has driven us towards bigger and better digital experiences. Meanwhile, continuous globalization and the requirement to engage across borders means the need for global financial inclusion where individual customers, as well as businesses, have the same sort of access to useful and affordable financial services across transactions, payments, and savings, through digital banking is more apparent than ever.
The rise of challenger and neo banks, as well as fintech providers, has transformed the capabilities of the banking sector, which can now offer a vast array of services to customers. These include new interactive service models, from cryptocurrencies, Buy Now Pay Later products and embedded financial lending services from companies across various sectors – ranging from supermarkets to global sports companies – outside of the banking industry. Meanwhile, the pandemic exacerbated the trend towards completely digital companies that operate remotely and need to be able to provide cross-border services instantly to work with other globally-orientated partners, pay staff anywhere across the world and expand global supply chains into new geographic markets.
One area that is growing rapidly is Latin America, where fintech investment has accelerated significantly. The region saw growth of nearly four times, rising from $4.1 billion in 2020 to $15.7 billion in 2021. Latin America serves as a perfect breeding ground for fintech start-ups. Primarily because banks across the region have, historically, only served affluent individuals due to a lack of competition and stringent credit requirements. A large portion of the overall population is still underbanked, ranging from 30 percent to 50 percent in major countries. Even for those with credit cards or bank accounts with local banks, the user experience is generally poor, while many banks have failed to invest in technological infrastructure and improve the digital experience.
Clearly, across the region, there is significant demand for access to a global secure bank account for a range of needs. For employees in developing economies working for companies who currently wait weeks to be paid through local banks. For small businesses looking to access and collaborate with new markets, and to provide access to a strong currency – the U.S. dollar – for those in developing countries with less stable economies, transforming the capabilities of international digital banking. This trend has only accelerated as remote working has become the new norm and companies employ staff all over the world. We at Zenus, therefore, believe offering a secure, transparent and scalable international bank will be vital for banks to provide financial inclusion to millions of people, businesses and organizations still without these essential products.
Consequently, the banking sector is now investing heavily in products that can offer secure, transparent and scalable international payment services that will be vital for providing financial inclusion to millions of people, businesses and organizations operating in developing economies. Cross-border banking, for example, and the ability to transfer money across bank accounts from different countries, provide a unique challenge that many banks are looking to address. While money has always been transferred across borders, the increase in cross-border flows of both capital and citizens in today’s world has resulted in more financial organizations looking to provide this service instantaneously.
In response, international banking licenses – the concept of globally-focused banks running on the same technology infrastructure across each country under one global license – are now being repurposed by banks to not just service High Net-worth and ultra wealthy customers but for anybody, anywhere in the world, especially in emerging countries where the need exists the most.
Banking accounts can be opened remotely and accessed from anywhere, providing customers with a global footprint, constant access to their funds and providing access to a global account for those in developing countries with less stable economies.
At Zenus, we believe this growing trend will be one of the defining changes across the global banking sector – helping to address the recurring problem of transferring money overseas from a complex, expensive and time-consuming process to an instant routine task – and is the main area we are investing and working with strategic partners to help scale these services for customers across the globe. By also offering our banking infrastructure via API’s and White Label services, we enable prominent Brands and fintech providers to expand their global reach and explore new revenue verticals. UK fintechs, for example, could service US clients or Latin American clients helping cross-border banking to become accessible everywhere.
These changes will also help complement the rise of embedded finance services such as Banking as a Service (BaaS), providing financial services to any company, no matter the sector, that is looking to adopt and implement these products on a global scale. The concept also has the potential to transform and democratize in developing nations, where it can take a few weeks for people to be paid through local banking channels.
That is our mission at Zenus – to make it easier and safe for clients to access, send, receive and store money in the U.S. from anywhere globally. Our international license gives customers constant access to their funds without requiring U.S. residency or citizenship.
The demand for simple and seamless cross-border payments could help transform the global banking system. Not only by providing new standards for the global banking sector but by ensuring customers can have access to an international bank instantly and no matter where they are based.
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