Opinion

Cybersecurity is vital to interconnected world

Jibu Mathew | Updated on February 24, 2021

Without trust, the adoption of digital services will suffer, likely creating a cascading effect on economic revival

In the Covid era, an increasing number of appliances, devices, vehicles and infrastructure are linked, leading to an overly interconnected world. The interconnected world powered by digital technologies is essential to create a safe, secure and convenient experience for consumers in the new normal. The digitalisation of services creates a network of Internet of Things (IoT) devices to enable better consumer experience but also raises the potential threat of cyberattacks.

Today, the proliferation of omni-channel retail and the emergence of the mobile phone as a one-stop solution for banking and e-commerce and the consequent safety concerns under-score the need for robust cybersecurity. Transit too is undergoing digitalisation to bring about secure and hassle-free experience as the daily commute is a big challenge in the new normal.

Thus, it becomes essential for businesses and governments to build and enhance cybersecurity in the areas of omni-channel retail, mobile, mobility and IoT ecosystem. After all, greater thrust on security enables more trust in the interconnected world. Without trust, the adoption of digital services will suffer, likely creating a cascading effect on economic revival. That is particularly true for the retail sector; while Covid-19 has been an accelerant for consumer buying, be it online or offline, lack of security can potentially affect the vertical growth.

Consumers are online 24x7, blurring lines between offline, online and purchases via apps (by phone). They seek hassle-free and streamlined experience irrespective of the channel they use. The emergence of omni-channel in retail has led to the digitalisation of services for providing newer buying experience and growth in the adoption of contactless payments.

Another essential factor enabling e-commerce in India and Bharat is the ubiquitous mobile phone — which is increasingly facing cybersecurity challenges from different threat actors.

In the new interconnected world, mobile phones have become command centres facilitating e-commerce, financial inclusion and digital payments. There is a need to foster greater consumer confidence in the mobile phone as a device for secure transactions. The mobile ecosystem is complex and involves various stakeholders.

Secure, scalable and glitch-free applications and payment solutions on interoperable devices are vital for the success of this ecosystem. Besides, the mobile ecosystem, Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) is set to undergo several changes and likely to become more connected, presenting new cybersecurity challenges.

Further, the security of IoT devices is an important facet in enabling trust.

The new normal is pushing towards a connected and boundary-less world. The proliferation of IoT devices is rising, be it the wearables we strap on our wrists or the devices we connect to enable work from home or smart home appliances. IoT devices are disrupting every nook of our home and personal and professional lives.

At the same time, these devices can provide opportunities to cybercriminals to hack them and gain access to the corporate networks in data-rich industries such as transportation, healthcare, infrastructure and in manufacturing operations. Considering the cybersecurity challenges across various connected ecosystems, what are the mechanisms that businesses and governments can adopt to drive digital trust?

How to drive digital trust

The first step in driving digital trust is the cross-pollination of best practices of cybersecurity as markers of trust into a connected ecosystem, be it retail or transit. Another essential aspect is digital identity — businesses and governments should focus on identification, authentication and authorisation of users as it is at the heart of a secure and interconnected world. A digital identity mechanism that not only validates consumers’ identity but also ensures the privacy of their data should be table stakes. Technologies such as tokenisation, encryption and EMV® 3-D Secure (3DS) can be leveraged to build digital trust.

Tokenisation, the process of replacing sensitive data with the non-sensitive equivalent for protection, has many advantages. It minimises and simplifies any amount of data by putting them under unique symbols. It is perfectly suited for use in online and store payments. Another data obfuscation technology is encryption. With encryption, one can transform large volumes of structured and unstructured data into a non-readable form of cipher using a small encryption algorithm and key.

Further, EMV® 3DS is a security protocol that helps ensure seamless consumer authentication with card issuers during card-not-present e-commerce purchases using consumer devices (cashless transactions). The security layer prevents fraud and eases the transaction for both the merchant and the consumer. 3DS technology can empower e-commerce sales to grow exponentially by streamlining and securing payment processes.

While all these technologies and cyber tools are available, building trust in the digital world is a collaborative effort and continuous process. An effort in which the businesses, consumers and governments need to come together to enable an environment wherein businesses can innovate securely and make full use of digital technologies.

Covid-19 has accelerated digitalisation and innovation in connected ecosystems and smart payments, which will continue beyond the pandemic.

The writer is Business Head - Identity Management & Security professional

Published on February 23, 2021

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