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AUTOMATING FINANCE SECURITY

FINANCE

By Faiz Shuja, co-founder at SIRP

The financial (finance) sector today is dominated by all things digital. Consumers and businesses alike can now manage everything from paying bills to applying for loans entirely through online services, eliminating the need for many traditional face-to-face services. Agile young challenger banks built entirely around digital native approaches have emerged to claim large chunks of the market. Established banks meanwhile have been heavily investing in their own capabilities.

Traditionally slower than other industries to adopt new technologies the financial sector, under pressure to stay competitive and relevant is widely embracing the digital switch-over. IDG estimates that this investment will produce worldwide compound annual growth in digital transformation of 20.4 percent between 2017 and 2022. It puts the finance sector above average compared to other industries.

Trading conditions arising from the Covid-19 pandemic are further accelerating the race to go digital. Housebound high street customers are increasingly accessing their accounts online while staff across all operational areas are working remotely.

However, as banks and other financial organisations expand their digital footprints, they also increase their exposure to cyber threats. Investment in digital transformation must therefore be matched by attention to security capabilities.

 

FINANCE

Faiz Shuja

Finance in the firing line

Most cyber-attacks are the work of opportunist criminals on the hunt for a big payday. Given the sector’s close relationship with managing capital in all its forms, it’s scarcely surprising that financial institutions are among the most popular targets for cyber criminals seeking quick profit. Indeed, a recent report from the IMF states that the high volume of sensitive financial information held by banks makes them “one of the most highly targeted economic sectors for data breaches”.

Finance firms face a variety of cyber threats. By far the greatest risk is posed by APTs (advanced persistent threats), often planted by criminal gangs or state-sponsored threat actors. A data breach could mean crucial financial information from millions of customers is stolen, or the withdrawal of large sums of money.

The sector also tempts insiders to misuse their knowledge and access privileges to beat security for personal gain. Unwelcome outcomes include insider trading activity or direct data breaches. The Capital One data breach was a prime example.

Alongside direct network infrastructure attacks, the sector must also contend with threats aimed at customers. Phishing attacks – emails that impersonate the company’s trusted brand – are a common way to trick customers into divulging personal or financial information.

 

Keeping up with digital threats

Financial organisations have always been tempting targets for criminals, from simple smash-and-grab bank robberies to sophisticated fraud schemes. It’s one of the reasons they are one of the world’s most heavily regulated industries. As a result, the finance sector is highly mature in respect of policies and procedures governing data privacy and security.

Cyber crime, however, presents a very different proposition. Threat actors continually adapt their tactics to find new vulnerabilities and penetrate defences. To protect their capital and their customers from these ever-evolving threats, banks and other financial institutions must match their antagonists for agility.

Accordingly, they have invested heavily in threat detection and prevention technology. Measures typically include web and app security to reduce exploitation of online and mobile customer interfaces, EDR (endpoint detection and response) to identify attacks on internal devices, and behavioural analytics to detect unusual user activity that signifies both external intruders and malicious insiders.

 

Accelerating with automation

To truly keep up with aggressive, fast-moving threats such as APT groups, detection and prevention measures are not enough. Banks must also be able to respond to and shut down attacks before they cause significant damage.

Once a threat is detected, it can take around 45-60 minutes before security analysts investigate and respond. Each minute that ticks by increases the chances of the threat actor exfiltrating essential data or causing significant damage to the network.

It’s not just about time either. Security teams are also responsible for managing high volumes of alerts. Research has found that security teams with too many incoming alerts will often either disable certain alert functions to reduce the numbers, or simply ignore some alerts entirely. In both cases the chance of incurring a serious breach goes up.

Keeping up requires financial firms to automate as much of the response process as possible. While there’s no substitute for professional security analysts to scrutinize and resolve advanced threats, today’s automated systems can handle much of the time-consuming investigative workload.

Automation, however, is only effective when current processes and business demands are properly understood. Furthermore, it is impossible to automate everything overnight. Firms must assess their current situation and start with the areas that will benefit most.

The systems that generate the largest threat alert volumes, typically phishing or web-based attack analytics, are a good place to start. Automating these first immediately eases the burden on security resources.

Organisations should also adopt a risk-based approach to automating security management processes. This means ranking potential threats according to their potential to damage the business. Sometimes this is obvious – for example if a receptionist and the CEO are repeatedly on the receiving end of attacks – responding to the latter is a clear priority. However, it is not always so clear cut. Automation tools like Security Orchestration and Response (SOAR) offer a risk-based approach tailored to an organisation’s unique structure and objectives. Having set these thresholds, the organisation can pass alerts from their SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) systems through them to form a dashboard. From the intelligence provided by these dashboards, security teams can quickly identify which threats are the most serious and prioritise steps to mitigate them.

As the financial sector continues to digitise, it will remain a top target for cyber criminals. The evidence is that attacks are increasing in both volume and sophistication. Using automation to increase the speed and efficiency of their response capabilities, provides financial institutions with a fighting chance of keeping one step ahead of adversaries as they continue their digital transformation journeys.

 

Top 10

WHY INDONESIA IS THE WORLD’S NEXT DIGITAL PAYMENTS BATTLEGROUND

Kelvin Phua, Global Head of Payment Networks at PPRO

 

The COVID-19 outbreak has seen the e-commerce sector surge. Despite economic uncertainty, consumers around the world are turning to the internet for the goods and services that they previously would have looked for in-store. In APAC, this has meant that some emerging markets have accelerated their adoption of digital services; the growth that was projected to take years has only taken months.

One notable example of this is Indonesia. According to a recent survey, Indonesia’s e-commerce sector is expecting 50% year-on-year growth with its value set to reach US$35 billion in 2020, up from $23 billion in 2019. What’s more, 30% of the country’s growing e-commerce market is new to online marketplaces and 40% intend to keep using e-commerce after the effects of the pandemic lessen.

With this upward trend has come a reliance on digital payments, and both public and private sectors have responded accordingly. Recently, the Indonesian central bank announced that all mobile payment providers were to replace QR codes with the standardised QRIS (Indonesian Standard QR code), providing a single integrated platform for all transactions made using QR codes across multiple e-wallet providers. On the private sector front, LinkAja has launched an online shopping solution to overhaul traditional marketplaces throughout Jakarta by enabling users to pay for goods using an app with the products delivered straight to their door.

For e-commerce and digital payment providers, these examples are good indicators that the time is right to go after a share of this market.

 

Understanding the playing field

Indonesia possesses many of the key characteristics that are critical to a market’s adoption of digital payments. With a smartphone penetration rate of 60%, well above the region’s average of 51%[1], and having witnessed its middle class grow from 7% to 20% of the population over the last 15 years, it comes as no surprise that Indonesia’s internet economy has more than quadrupled in size since 2015.

Currently, there are 37 local payment methods (LPMs)[2] in Indonesia, with GoPay, Doku, OVO, Dana, and LinkAja some of the frontrunners in the battle to claim a slice of the payments pie. This number is expected to grow as Alipay formalises its entry into Indonesia in partnership with Bank Mandiri and Bank Rakyat Indonesia, joining WeChat Pay which was officially granted a licence to operate in the country this January in collaboration with CIMB Niaga.

The growing number of players jumping on board with digital transactions bodes well for the Government’s National Non-Cash Movement launched in 2014. Go-Jek’s recent funding round and Facebook’s plans to build an e-commerce ecosystem around WhatsApp will help accelerate the adoption of digital payments for millions of SMEs in Indonesia, with businesses already using the popular messaging service to interact with their customers. Similarly, PayPal’s arrangement with Go-Jek will see the latter’s users use GoPay at PayPal merchants globally.

With the influx of foreign payment services and investment catering to higher consumer demand while creating the digital infrastructure needed to facilitate higher payment volumes, Indonesia is shaping up to be Southeast Asia’s next digital payments battleground. But what does this actually mean for businesses and consumers there?

 

Navigating a fragmented payments landscape

With all this consolidation and market movement, payment providers are innovating quickly to strengthen and enrich their offerings by partnering with others to develop their own unique payment ecosystems. Initially, these new partnerships will result in greater efficiencies when it comes to connecting consumers and businesses through one platform. But the fundamental pain point remains; the development of multiple payment ecosystems will continue to create the dilemma of choice. Consolidation in the truest sense of the word is yet to be achieved, and the payments landscape in Indonesia remains highly fragmented.

Since Indonesia loosened investment rules in 2016, foreign e-commerce players such as Amazon and Alibaba have entered the domestic market, competing against homegrown firms such as Tokopedia and Bukalapak. This has provided consumers with access to a wider variety of goods at more competitive prices.

To keep up with consumer preferences in Southeast Asia’s largest economy, merchants and payment service providers would need to evolve – by delivering a customer-centric experience where consumers are able to pay with the local payment method they prefer and trust.

In the long term, businesses should refrain from the drawing of battle lines in Indonesia’s fragmented payments landscape and create a payment ecosystem that takes into account payment preferences of the local consumers. Those who seek to enter multiple markets through one payments platform-as-a-service will be the ones most likely to succeed in capturing the lion’s share of the e-commerce market.

 

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Technology

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND FUTURE OF TECHNOLOGY

Ashish Jain, CEO, Future FX

 

Artificial Intelligence refers to machine intelligence that is programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. For example while writing this article, I am not actually typing it but dictating it out using the microphone and the text is being typed by Microsoft Word itself.

The ideal characteristic of artificial intelligence is to rationalize and take actions to achieve a specified goal.

As technology advances the previous methods of artificial intelligence are taken for granted as new necessities are conjured. For example the computer was one of the most iconic invention of artificial intelligence but now it is considered as mandatory.

Artificial intelligence is continuously evolving and has to evolve. Machines are made in a way that they understand mathematics, linguistic, psychology and many more other terms that are related to human mind.

Artificial intelligence is used in many sectors for example the medical sector. It is used to test drugs and medicines.

We have applications and games which includes chess where the computer plays against us this is also a feature of artificial intelligence. Similarly self driving cars are also an invention of artificial intelligence. These have to be designed very intelligently.

This can also be used in the financial industry to trace and flag activities in banking and finance such as unusual debit card activity or usage and large deposits.

This also helps to estimate the demand supply and prices of the estimates and that makes trading easier.

Earlier, we had to pay a visit to bank on order to deposit a cheque. Then we updated to ATM/Debit Cards and now you can be identified by your retina. Many different sectors have also adapted this method to make actions it more convenient and safe.

Some more examples of artificial intelligence are iPhone’s Siri, Google’s Smart Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Maps, Ride- sharing apps like Uber and Ola, diseases mapping, Automated investing, virtual travel booking, social media monitoring, inter team chat tool, NLP tools, etc.

Artificial intelligence is all around us and playing an active role in our daily lives. Every time we open our Facebook newsfeed, do a Google search, get a product recommendation from Amazon or book a trip online, we are using it immensely.

In the coming years, computers might match or even exceed human intelligence and capabilities on tasks such as decision- making, reasoning and learning, analytics and pattern recognition, visual acuity, speech recognition and language translation.

Smart systems in commodities, vehicles, day to day use objects will save time and effort offering us a more customized and comfortable future.

It will help the medical sector hugely in upgrading the medicines and treatments, inventing new ones which haven’t been found yet and making everyone’s lives more safer and healthier. A large number of data can be collected from person to person about their health and nutrition and thus changes can be made in the lifestyle.

Artificial intelligence will bring changes in the educational system making it more revolutionary and advanced.

Overall, every factor has advantages and disadvantages and artificial intelligence has it’s lot too. Considering all the advantages artificial intelligence will also affect the human decision making power, analyzing and rational thinking, lifestyle etc. It will make people lazier and will affect their creativity. It can also lead to unemployment due to increase in usage of machines.

Like everything has a balance, artificial intelligence needs to be balanced too so that we can enjoy it’s benefits without suffering the negatives.

 

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