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UNDERSTANDING THE CYBERSECURITY CHALLENGES FACED BY NEOBANKS

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Narendra Sahoo, Founder and Director of VISTA InfoSec

 

Introduction

In recent years we have witnessed a major drift in the banking and financial industry with digitization and growing use of mobile technology. Customers are also embracing the digital means of financial services by moving away from physical cash to digital currency. Customers today seem more comfortable transacting digitally than ever before. But the digitization in the Banking and Financial Industry has also triggered huge cybersecurity challenges for Financial Institutes and Service Providers. It has opened up entry points for cybercriminals to stage attacks and get illegal access to critical data. Today, with digitization and technological advancements, the banking industry has grown out to be more vulnerable than ever before.

Facing numerous incidents of breach and theft every year, cybersecurity now becomes a major point of focus for the Banking and Financial industries globally. Especially, for the emerging new financial players like the Neobanks which runs entirely on a digital banking model, cybersecurity should be their topmost priority. Focusing on this area, we have today written an article listing out some of the potential cybersecurity challenges faced by Neobanks and the future that holds for these emerging financial players. But before that let us first understand what Neobanking is and how exactly does it operate in the industry? This will give us a better perspective of its operational challenges and risk exposure that they face in their business.

 

What is Neobanking? 

Neobanks are virtual banking service providers operating digitally without having any physical infrastructure like their traditional counterparts. Their offerings are limited to internet-only financial services that focuses on providing its tech-savvy customers the convenience of their cutting edge and technology-driven digital banking services. Neobank offerings are slightly similar to those of traditional banks but limited to just opening saving accounts, payment, and money transfer services, loans, and budgeting, to name a few. The banking structure and business model of Neobanks are different from the traditional ones, eliminating physical infrastructure and automating banking processes. Given below are some of the key difference that will help you understand the concept of Neobanking a little better-

Neobanking Traditional Banking
Neobanks run on a digital platform and have no physical branch. Traditional banks have physical banking service branches for operating their business.
Banking processes in Neobanks are easy, quick, and automated. Banking processes in a traditional bank are usually lengthy, tedious, and involves partial manual and automated task.
Neo banks’ customer support relies on a combination of chatbots and AI providing flexible, virtual, online support. Traditional banking relies on telephonic or in-person support.
Service offerings include-

·        Opening accounts

·        Payment and money transfer services

·        Loans

·        Budgeting

Service offerings include-

·        Opening accounts

·        Payment and money transfer services

·        Insurance services

·        Wealth Management

·        Loans

·        Merchant services

·        Mobile banking services

So, while Neobanking helps in overcoming the traditional banking challenges with the ease and convenience of availing services, they also pose huge security challenges. Given below are some major cybersecurity challenges faced by Neobanks.  

Cybersecurity Challenges faced by Neobanks

Without having a robust Cybersecurity measure in place, sensitive data may be at high-risk. For the size and business, they are into, Neobanks cannot afford to invest hugely in full-time security teams. They are dependent on third parties to level their security to the standards of the industry requirements. Given below are some major cybersecurity challenges that Neobanks may have to face

Inadequate budget-

Cybersecurity requires huge amounts of investment. Neobanks are comparatively smaller than the traditional banks and often lack the budget for having a full-time cybersecurity team for monitoring all the activities. Their low investments and budget on cybersecurity may result in weak security measures leading to higher levels of risk exposure.

Third-party dependency

Neobanks work digitally and are heavily dependent on third-party services to serve their customers. So, with the dependency on the third-party, the risk exposure is significant. If the third-party vendors do not have a tight Cybersecurity measure it may possibly result in compromised security measures and lead to data breach incidents.

Malware- Since the entire banking process is online, a lot of sensitive data passes through the network and digital devices. Networks and devices should be appropriately secured to prevent any incidents of a breach. In case a device connected with a network is compromised with malware, it may pose a huge threat to your sensitive banking data and may result in compromised cybersecurity.

Spoofing-

Spoofing is the latest form of cyber threat wherein the cybercriminals will impersonate the banking website’s URL with a website that is similar to the original one and functions the same way. So when the user enters his or her login credentials the sensitive data is stolen resulting in data theft and unauthorized access to critical information.  It is a common practice adopted by most attackers to steal sensitive data. With Neobanks completely operating online the risk exposure to such scams are high.

Phishing-

Phishing is an attempt made by a hacker to get access to sensitive information such as credit card details by disguising as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Today, online banking phishing scams have evolved significantly, resulting in high profile incidents of scams. With Neobanks completely operating online the risk exposure to such scams are high.

Compliance

Almost all of the Neo banks would be required to comply with standards such as PCI DSS. This would be in addition to the local regulatory compliance such as those concerned with Privacy. In this virtualised environment with low budgets and manpower, adhering with these compliance requirements would possibly be the largest challenge faced by Neobanks.

 

What the future holds for Neobanks– Our Final thought

As the world goes completely digital, security measures need to be more complex and sophisticated. More so, they need to be updated from time-to-time. Implementing appropriate measures and adhering to industry best practices is one-way, Neobanks can get a grip over the cybersecurity challenges. Constantly educating customers about the evolving risk exposure and ensuring compliance to industry standards (PCI DSS) will go a long way in securing the environment and digital business operations. This brings us to recommending Neobanks to consult industry experts for implementing Cybersecurity measures that do not compromise the safety of customer’s and the institution’s data and money in any way.

Banking

Bringing Automation to Banking

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Ron Benegbi, Founder & CEO, Uplinq Financial Technologies

 

Automation is everywhere you look these days; from supermarkets to warehouses to automobiles. This prominent trend shows no sign of abating anytime soon. However, some sectors remain behind others when it comes to adopting automated technologies. Banking is one such segment, but there’s now evidence to suggest that this could be about to change.

 

What do we mean by automation?

There are a lot of ways to define automation, but broadly the term applies to any technological application where human input is minimized through design. Over the years, automation has evolved from a basic level, which took simple tasks and automated them, all the way to advanced automation powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI). In general, automated solutions work to increase productivity and efficiency within businesses and often result in a reduction in costs associated with human capital.

 

Ron Benegbi

Why has the banking sector been slow to adopt automation?

The banking sector has been built on a number of long-standing, tried and tested processes and protocols, which have been continually fortified and refined over time. This is one explanation as to why the sector has been so slow in adopting new, automated methods within its operations. Additionally, many major financial institutions have spent decades building their own internal legacy computer systems, which are often incompatible with modern automated solutions.

When combined, these two issues have caused a significant lag in the banking sector with regards to the adoption of automated technologies. This lag has created a market opportunity that a number of fintech providers have been able to exploit in recent years. Offering a more responsive and tech-first user experience, many fintech providers are leveraging the power of automation to better meet the banking needs of their customers. However, there is still time for the banking sector to start bridging this gap.

 

Does automation have a place in the banking sector?

The opportunity for automation to play a role within banking can be transformational.

To achieve this, it’s important that legacy organizations begin to learn from their more tech-savvy, smaller counterparts. If used effectively, automated financial solutions can greatly improve the experience of banking customers, both on a personal and business level. So, what exactly does this change look like, and how far away are we from seeing it become a reality?

A good place to start is the small business credit lending process, where not much has changed since the 1980’s. Over that period, the world has greatly transformed, but the methods used to assess credit worthiness have remained somewhat static. For the most part, banks assess data related to businesses’ accounting and banking records and from credit scores. For many businesses, especially the newer and less established ones, this antiquated approach is having a detrimental effect. In fact, it’s often cited as a contributor to the huge funding gap between SMBs and their larger counterparts.

 

How can automation benefit the banking sector?

By adopting more automated technologies, lenders in the banking sector can begin to assess more comprehensive information when making credit decisions. Notably, new methods exist, which enable additional data sets to be evaluated, in order to build a more accurate financial depiction of a business’ overall position. This data can come from sources like external market attributes, economic indicators, demographic data and exogenous shocks.

By leveraging additional data sets through new methods of financial automation, banks are now in a position to respond more effectively to small businesses, including those in emerging and evolving markets where there is a lack of conventional sources of information.

With more ways to access funding, facilitated by alternative data and automated processes, small business owners can improve their operational efficiencies and accelerate their growth efforts. In doing so, legacy oriented financial institutions can now better equip themselves in protecting against new, nimbler tech-based disruptors.

 

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Banking

MYTH BUSTING THE ROLE OF OPEN SOURCE IN FINANCIAL SERVICES

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Nigel Abbott, Regional Director North EMEA, GitHub

 

There is no denying the financial services (FS) industry is under pressure to innovate. Not only have customer and consumer expectations for digital experiences surged in recent years, but the emergence of nimble and ambitious fintechs have disrupted the market. Yet, despite striving for innovation being table stakes across the industry, FS organisations inevitably face familiar hurdles that slow their progress, including concerns surrounding security, compliance, and the ability to act fast.

Open source is increasingly seen as a route to drive innovation and create new value. The FS sector’s utilisation of open source and the transformative role it can play is accelerating – on paper, at least. According to the recent Fintech Open Source Foundation’s (FINOS) 2021 State of Open Source in Financial Services survey, as many as 80 percent of FS leaders said that innovation, reduced time-to-market and total cost of ownership are factors for FS businesses to consume open source.

Nigel Abbott, Regional Director North EMEA -GitHub

But the reality is these positive adoption figures don’t tell the whole story. The survey also revealed that 75 percent of FS technology leaders said their businesses are either not “open source first”, or that they did not know if they were. Tellingly, less than one in ten (eight per cent) said that their business has put in place policies to encourage open source contribution.

The statistics point towards disparity between uptake of open source and the ability to use it to its full potential. But why?

For me, it comes down to some common myths about the role of open source that need demystifying:

 

Myth #1: There are limits to the innovation that open source can deliver

This could not be further from the truth. All enterprises, including FS companies, rely on open source software to build the best software for their customers, improve infrastructure, and unlock the potential of their engineering teams. Nationwide, for example, has completely redesigned its DevOps processes to respond faster to market changes and keep pace with customer expectations to remain relevant. The impact is transformative when they actively embrace it and participate fully in the open source community, creating a win-win situation for end-users. 

 

Myth #2: Data can be shared without consent 

Quite the opposite. Open source does not require FS businesses to share all their secrets and give away their competitive advantage. Instead, taking an “innersource” approach allows financial institutions to take the skills of developers who are accustomed to using open source tools and brings these inside the company firewall, providing a secure internal platform for working collaboratively on projects.

 

Myth #3: Open source is not secure

The most common misconception is that higher security risks are associated with code being openly available to anyone who uses it. But the open concept is, in fact, one of the biggest security strengths of open source. This is because of the collaborative nature of how code is built. The open source community has a shared responsibility for developing and maintaining secure code, and there is a vast global pool of developers identifying and fixing security issues. Supported by the right tools and processes, open source makes it easier for developers to code securely throughout the entire software development lifecycle, reducing the amount of time and financial investment in delivering secure products. Research from Red Hat found that security is regarded as a top benefit for enterprises using open source.

 

Myth #4: The open source community lacks finance sector contributors

This is untrue. Financial enterprises of all shapes and sizes are prominent participants in the open-source community and lead by example, sharing meaningful code contributions. Challenger banks and institutions such as Goldman Sachs contribute to open source initiatives via FINOS. By opening their code and ideas, FS companies can share lessons and support the whole community – helping them deliver better services and more value to their customers. And crucially, they are advancing a community that they can systematically tap into and benefit from.

Open source is already delivering innovation in the FS sector. But the bottom line is that there is so much extra value it can bring. Unlocking the full potential of open source to effect change does not just require buying DevOps tools. Open source requires organisation-wide understanding and support, a culture of collaboration and a progressive DevOps and governance process to thrive. Only then can it deliver its true value and accelerate innovation.

 

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