Fintech and the evolving cybersecurity landscape

By Andy Sen

As the digital universe keeps expanding with a rising number of transactions, there is a concomitant increase in cybercrimes. What’s more, many individuals and institutions are falling victim to such crimes at some point in time.

Though most organisations are constantly taking protective measures, cybercriminals keep changing tactics to discover new loopholes in the system. For example, the outbreak of COVID-19 has triggered a spate of cyberattacks using coronavirus cures and similar ruses to dupe unwary people.

Cyber Threats and Vulnerabilities
As the digital India transition accelerates, it finds greater momentum in the financial space. Given this scenario, both individuals and institutions must be aware of their vulnerability to cyber threats as they increasingly deploy digital modes.

For fintech firms, security and data privacy issues pose huge challenges since their business model depends on digital transactions. Also, dealing with immense amounts of online data as part of their daily regimen makes it vulnerable to security breaches because it is exposed to third parties too.

Consequently, safeguarding IT assets and customer data is a never-ending battle to ensure maximum cybersecurity. No doubt, the present times can be considered a golden era for hackers since massive data breaches keeping occurring with disturbing regularity.

Moreover, some of the biggest threats sometimes surface from within the four walls of the companies themselves. Or it can involve third-party data handlers getting compromised in some way, despite being responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of customer records. Unfortunately, though inherent risks exist in sensitive digital data being accessible to more than a few individuals, this is imperative since such data has to be made available for analysis and to generate relevant insights. On the flip side, this leaves data vulnerable to a security breach.

All of which calls for reevaluating and even overhauling the current security standards. In staying up to speed with cybercrime attacks and trends, fintech companies also need to be proactive in studying the tricks cybercriminals keep using and evolving.

In addressing the constant cyber threat, policies and procedures should be in place defining overall assets and their security framework. After a proper analysis, existing infrastructure vulnerabilities and the requisite security needs should be outlined in assessing the risks.

In susceptible scenarios, security remains contingent on knowing the responses to who, what, where and when. Notwithstanding the size of a company, the main objective of all access control steps will be to safeguard the physical, IP and human assets. Companies will also need to ensure design controls adhering to international security guidelines and compliances to ascertain stringent cybersecurity.

To maintain cyber resilience, company employees must periodically undergo awareness programmes and cybersecurity training. Employees should also be trained in incident management processes for promptly restoring regular service operations in the company in case of any security breach. This is indispensable in mitigating any adverse impact during breaches or outages, helping maintain optimal service levels during the ongoing event.

Countering Cyber Crooks
Fortunately, India’s wealth and asset management sector has been revolutionized by more efficient means of pinpointing and quantifying risks, defined platforms for optimizing customer portfolios and algorithm-based investments. Additionally, blockchain technology offers financial firms tremendous benefits through better security, improved data quality, accountability, faster transactions, reduced costs and digital currencies, to name a few. While the development of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin has disrupted fintech firms, the benefits of augmented security are a boon.

Coming back to the issue of Covid-19 and increased cybercrimes, this has put the focus on digital tools such as cloud, analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, among others. Besides rising digitalization, an almost overnight switch to remote working has further exposed fintech firms to greater security risks.

Furthermore, cyber threats have also involved cyber skullduggery. In such cases, hackers have been stealing the debit and credit card details of customers, using reprogrammed ATMs to siphon off funds and undertaking money laundering via network algorithms and sophisticated software programmes.

Meanwhile, in data breach events, data encryption can play a pivotal part in augmenting cybersecurity by helping fintech firms erect proactive defence walls to counter cyberattacks. To tighten security further, security heads must regularly review such gaps. Thereafter, they can design a clear security roadmap. Strategic investment decisions should then be undertaken in core domains of cybersecurity as per the relevance of business needs and the risk appetite.

The security architecture must create a robust encrypted communication channel between customers and payment mechanisms backed by regular risk management review and assessment of the security application’s vulnerability. Significantly, smartphones and other end-user devices typically lack the requisite security tools, including antivirus and anti-phishing. These device vulnerabilities should also be taken into account.

Therefore, to execute transactions, companies should install user identification, including advanced authentication measures. Their security teams must also adopt a futuristic approach in designing a secure roadmap that remains in sync with the evolving security landscape.

Finally, one cannot deny that the financial firmament will never remain wholly free from cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Nevertheless, investing in the latest technology and fostering a proactive cybersecurity culture can help in containing these threats – while making life more difficult for cyber crooks


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