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The Green Sheet Online Edition

November 13, 2023 • Issue 23:11:01

Economic uncertainty doesn't mean compromising cybersecurity

By Johan Gerber

In our digitized world, cybersecurity is the key to unlocking trust. To give an indication of its importance: cyber now sits above geopolitics and economic challenges as a leading risk area for merchants, fintechs, financial institutions and other key players.

As criminals continue to exploit new technologies, pressure is building on organizations everywhere to protect their systems from risks that are growing in sophistication and impact.

The numbers speak for themselves: the average global cost of a data breach in 2023 reached a staggering $4.45 million (see tinyurl.com/26pr7p8v), a 15 percent increase over a three-year period. This cost includes the expense of losing customers and acquiring new ones, as well as the financial implications of reputational damage and diminished goodwill.

Cybercrime is a growing concern

Add to this the fact that, recent Mastercard research revealed that 98 percent of consumers are concerned about the current level of cybercrime (see tinyurl.com/5n7atks4), demonstrating the uphill battle businesses now face to tackle the public trust issue.

In short, it has become a threat that organizations of all sizes and from every sector can no longer ignore. Ransomware attacks still dominate the landscape with the average demand in 2023 being $1.6 million, up 74 percent in the past year (see tinyurl.com/mr3tt8c4). Following a 2021 peak, we're still seeing in the region of 500 million attacks a year.

This challenges technology companies in new ways. In an era when global economic shocks provide additional obstacles to resourcing cyber protection, faster innovation is needed to secure the future for payment networks and the customers who use them.

One way to accelerate the pace of innovation is to invest consistently in expanding cybersecurity capabilities, which can enable technology companies to simplify the link between convenience and security for customers. This can be done by harnessing best-in-class technology, whether that's AI or quantum computing, resulting in a supercharged arsenal of cyber solutions enhanced by capabilities that drive faster, smarter and more effective protection for all.

For example, cutting-edge AI technology can not only inform organizations of their cyber vulnerabilities—and the risks existing within their supply chains—but also warn them of any threats coming down the road. Threat protection solutions can set traps to stop unwanted bots from getting any closer, all with minimal human intervention.

Rising threats lead to increased investment

Such initiatives help businesses to build trust with the public, which can, for example, lead to helping a customer identify which of its vendors has weak cybersecurity. By employing threat intelligence tools, a business would be able to see the real-time network changes affecting its vendors and could take instant action to protect its networks. The result? That business could reduce its cyber risk by 50 percent.

Advanced tools also help technology providers learn and understand more about the ever-evolving priorities of business leaders. Recent research commissioned by Mastercard and carried out by Datos, revealed that rising cyber risk combined with more effective tech-powered solutions is encouraging organizations to invest.

So, economic uncertainty doesn't mean compromising cybersecurity. In fact, cybersecurity budgets are increasing, according to the research just cited in this article. More than half of financial institutions increased their budget between 5 percent and 10 percent in 2022 versus 2021, a trend expected to continue through the final months of 2023 and into 2024.

However, cyber investment is only as valuable as the expertise and knowledge behind it, and return on investment is particularly vital in challenging economic times. This remains a critical challenge for businesses, and the research shows they acknowledge the need for outside support. The vast majority (84 percent) of cyber security leaders surveyed said they would benefit from third-party assistance in deploying AI-powered solutions, navigating digital identity, API security, and knowing which cyber threats are coming around the corner.

New challenges inspire ingenious innovation

So, how will these findings direct technology companies' next steps? In short, they motivate providers to move in smarter—as well as faster—ways. AI is being deployed at a greater scale. It is driving productivity benefits across communities worldwide. This futuristic technology isn't just something to tap into to enrich individual experiences; it is also to help solve some of society's most pressing challenges and, most of all, to keep people safe.

For cryptocurrencies, where there is estimated to be four times more fraud than in regular fiat payments, technology providers are devising new innovations to stay ahead. New solutions can help customers make informed decisions that protect their business, as well as the entire payments ecosystem. A simple dashboard can provide visibility of crypto spend, transaction volumes and an anti-money laundering risk rating exposure.

Through solutions like these, banks and other businesses can earn and, importantly, keep the trust of their customers—on whom their business depends. Trust is fragile. It can be broken in a nanosecond. And as the global financial ecosystem expands, it's getting harder for organizations to navigate the maze of cyber risks alone.

Businesses, merchants, financial institutions and fintechs need trailblazing tools and expert knowledge to understand the risks they're facing. Relentless innovation is empowering them with the resources to assess, protect and organize against today's attacks– and anticipate those of tomorrow.

Fast-moving risks necessitate rapid resilience

As technology advances and our society becomes increasingly connected, new threats will emerge that will require rapid responses and unprecedented levels of business resilience. With that, will come exciting new opportunities to push the pace of development even further and deliver innovation with lightning speed.

However, in striving to outpace cyber threats, we must ensure trust is not an afterthought but remains central to our efforts to make payments seamless and secure. Maintaining this equilibrium is vital to securing the connections that power our digital world. end of article

Johan Gerber is executive vice president of security & cyber innovation at Mastercard and a member of the company's management committee. Johan is focused on identifying evolving cyber security risks and supporting Mastercard's customers with targeted solutions to protect themselves from attack. Gerber joined Mastercard in 2000, and has held critical roles across multiple business areas, such as franchise, identity, AI and network management, giving him deep experience of the organization. He has spearheaded customer-focused innovations, like embedding artificial intelligence into Mastercard's network to enhance Mastercard's security capabilities and expand our services strategy. Prior to joining Mastercard, he was a member of the South African Police Services for 10 years where he specialized in organized crime investigations as well as internal investigations of financial crimes. Contact him via LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/johan-gerber-4269041. Mastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. The company's mission is to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible.

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