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Digital Identities: Creating Value for Individuals and Industries

Digital Identities: Creating Value for Individuals and Industries

By Arta Sylejmani, Digital Banking Strategy at Gemalto

Living in the digital age impacts almost all areas of our lives. So much so, that we’ve inadvertently created multiple online identities, in sharing logins, passwords and private information, for all the services we use. In many ways this has exposed one of the last remaining frontiers of the ‘analog’ world – in how we verify who we are.

Arta Sylejmani

Arta Sylejmani

Across Europe and beyond, we are still for the most part, reliant upon paper-based ID documents to authenticate our identity. Whether this is in airport security, paying taxes, applying for a loan or getting served alcohol. This creates a disconnect between the seamless and convenient nature of operating in a digital world, and the cumbersome process of proving your identity through uploading scans or sending off your paper-based ID.

To address this challenge, governments, private organisations and financial institutions are exploring digital identities. Digital identities include unique, verifiable information about an individual including biometric, biographic and behavioural data. This data can be verified remotely over digital channels, and in turn, unlock access to banking, government benefits, healthcare, education and other ID dependent services. Digital identities can be issued through a national or local government or even a third party, and use a combination of biometric data, passwords and smart devices to confirm your identity.

Let’s explore just how much value the onset of digital identities can create for both individual citizens and the industries deploying them.

Recognising the wider economic benefits

According to a recent McKinsey report, digital identities could unlock an economic value equivalent of 3 to 13 percent of GDP by 2030. While this is of course dependent upon significant levels of usage, there is nothing to suggest that these estimates are not reachable. With the correct infrastructure, digital IDs can provide a flexible, robust solution that can be used in a variety of industries.

The most direct use-cases are in banking services with Norway and Belgium already providing tangible examples of successful mobile schemes. BankID, for instance, is used by all Norwegian banks and provides secure, verified transactions, easy online on-boarding of new customers as well as automated digital signatures for the approval of online documents and notifications. Its mobile solution is used a staggering 3.5 times per week by customers and has fundamentally changed how the public interacts with online financial services.

Similarly, Belgium’s Itsme mobile solution has been supported by four leading Belgium banks and three of the country’s biggest telecoms operators. Thanks to its ease of use, security and flexibility, it attracted more than 350,000 users in its first year of operation. And now, as it eclipses two years in existence, it is reaching the one million customer milestone.

Bringing security, convenience and financial inclusion to individuals

Digital identities can also bring great economic benefits by driving financial inclusion. According to the World Bank’s ID4D database, there are approximately 1billion individuals without a legal form of identification, and just under 3.5billion with some form of ID but no recognisable digital trail. This means that over half of the world’s population is either unable or has no means to access critical online services and participate in the digital economy. For those in this bracket, the result is often societal marginalisation as they are unable to enjoy the same security and convenience benefits afforded by the connected world.

Digital identities provide a robust solution to this problem. They can create economic and social value for excluded communities by providing secure, yet flexible access to previously unattainable goods and services. Unlike paper-based ID documents, they are under the protection of a third-party, usually a bank, and can be used to unlock digital benefits in real-time.

Importantly, third parties, such as banks or government services, can use an individual’s digital ID to streamline access to public services and drive service innovation across the private sector. In this scenario, digital identities can be used by authorised government or banking institutions to verify ID requests without having to disclose the individual’s personal data. As the process is automated, individuals can benefit from instant access to financial services, improved passage to employment, streamlined government services and significant savings in time and effort. In real-world use cases, this translates as secure digital payments, digital tax filing, online voting, automatic school enrolment, automated background verification and efficient payroll services.

Using digital identities beyond banking and public services

However, it’s not just in banking and public services that digital IDs are primed for deployment. In travel and agriculture, electronic identity authentication has an opportunity to make significant progress.

Starting with travel and tourism, the sector is under increased pressure because of the growing number of travellers; this compounds risk and security requirements as well as infrastructure capacity limits. These pressures hinder a secure and seamless cross-border traveller journey and cause various pain points for governments, businesses and travellers. The integration of digital identities into the passenger experience could enable governments, in partnership with industry leaders and organisations, to conduct pre-vetting risk assessment and security procedures to enhance the seamless flow of travellers through borders. Security officials can then redirect attention and resources to identifying threats, as opposed to passenger processing, making the entire experience much safer and convenient.

While in agriculture, digital identities can boost financial inclusion and support supply-chain traceability and delivery of goods. For example, a comprehensive, government recognised digital ID service can help smallholder farmers formally register land and livestock, protect their assets, and access mobile, financial, and other services that allow them to work, sell and spend income formally.

Growing demand for ethical and organic produce has meant that smallholder farmers are increasingly asked to disclose the origin of their produce, especially when attempting to enter larger markets. This level of traceability relies on the ability to track produce back to a single farm of origin. In the case of smallholder farmers, this often means tracing back to a single farmer, which can be greatly supported by the use of a unique ID.

Achievable only through trust

Clearly, the value that digital identities can bring to both individuals and industries could fundamentally improve how society interacts through digital. Yet, these benefits are only achievable if it is built upon a trusted ecosystem containing all digital identity participants. It’s critical that whoever controls the verifiable data, be it banks, telco providers, government services or institutions, adopts secure yet scalable infrastructure solutions to protect the information as it travels from one party to the next.

This infrastructure requires the creation of a ‘trust loop’; the process of continuous service enrolment, application, authentication and approval that creates a loop of trust between the consumer, the service provider and other third parties. To work, this needs to be underpinned by the most advanced digital and biometric authentication technology to ensure all parties involved can trust the data that’s being shared. Without trust, the ecosystem will crumble and the digital identity opportunity ahead of us will never materialise.

Technology

EeaseUS Free Data Recovery Software Recover Lost And Erased Documents

EeaseUS Free Data Recovery Software Recover Lost And Erased Documents 1

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Shining a spotlight on operational resilience and cyber-risk in financial services

Shining a spotlight on operational resilience and cyber-risk in financial services 3

By Miles Tappin, VP of EMEA for ThreatConnect, explores why the financial services industry must build a cyber security strategy in 2020

The new digital landscape has welcomed financial institutions with open arms. Emerging technology such as Artificial intelligence (AI), crypto-currencies and big data have shown widespread benefits throughout the years, particularly how they have driven innovation and change. When it comes to retail banking, fintech providers have quickly taken the chance to offer personalised services to ensure they remain relevant to their target market and stand out among their competitors.

This has been particularly evident with Klarna, now Europe’s most valued fintech firm. Providing payment solutions for online storefronts, consumers are now able to shop and pay later with top retailers including the likes of H&M, Ikea and Zara. This is just one example of how easy it has become to successfully and strategically disrupt the payments sector.

With several new players entering the banking scene, traditional financial institutions are making sure that they stay one step ahead and are developing robust digital ecosystems that deliver omnichannel service models. However, this comes at a price. As technological change becomes part and parcel to remaining relevant in the sector, the industry needs to be aware of the cyber security challenges that may present themselves and how to overcome them.

2020: The year for cybercriminals targeting financial services

2020 has become a definitive year for cybersecurity in the financial services industry. Financial institutions are a lucrative target – they hold highly sensitive information and have a mandate to protect the personal information of their customers. It started with an unprecedented attack against Travelex where hackers successfully took some of the currency providers offline for nearly a month. Then came Coronavirus which sparked a new wave of malware and phishing threats. Research from VMware Carbon Black Cloud revealed that threats against financial institutions have surged by 238% since the start of the pandemic.

The renewed interest from cyber criminals comes at a time when regulators are paying close attention to the resilience of the sector. After a string of IT failures and breaches, financial organisations in the UK have been given a mandate from regulators to improve operational resilience. This means ensuring business models can withstand disruptive events from hackers or adversaries and quickly recover to protect the stability of financial systems.

In December 2019, the UK’s financial regulators published a series of consultation papers outlining their proposed approach to achieving greater operational resilience. The proposals suggested that financial institutions will be required to map out the systems and processes that support business services in order to identify any potential vulnerabilities that would pose a risk to the stability of the UK financial system or the firm’s standing.

Working together in tandem

Where cybersecurity used to be a classic back-office concern, it’s now a central part of digital strategies and a key pillar of both reputation and customer retention – financial legislation leaves no room for failure. All financial institutions need to ensure they have full visibility of their systems and can detect any potential threats.

The challenge for financial institutions is making the security tools they have purchased separately work together in tandem. Security teams buy a firewall, an email filter, threat intelligence feeds, antivirus software or enhanced endpoint protection, and whatever else they need individually. Each of them does a good job but they don’t talk to each other and valuable time is lost tending to individual systems that become a burden to run. At the same time, running multiple security systems is expensive. The more systems you have, the more highly skilled staff you need to manage them, and they’re few and far between.

The importance of sharing across communities

To reduce complexity and simplify decision making, financial organisations need to unify processes and technology to harness the security intelligence that comes from across their own security programmes and external sources to drive down risk. However, no financial institution can tackle the problem alone. Experienced threat actors using advanced techniques are constantly targeting the financial sector. The industry needs to come together as a whole to foster a sense of collaboration and data sharing.

Miles Tappin

Miles Tappin

In the same way that financial institutions have introduced open banking to deliver a fairer service to customers, the same needs to apply to security – all parts of the financial ecosystem need to unite and share information to learn from one another and succeed in the fight against adversaries that operate across borders.

By sharing alerts on cyber hazards and risk across financial institutions and with law enforcement, government agencies and other relevant authorities, it’s possible to build industry specific insights into cyber security threats and quickly pivot to gain more information on those specific threats and threat actors. By working together, a picture can be painted on threats coming from all manner of malicious activity, from malware to ransomware, to phishing and software vulnerabilities.

Creating a single source of intelligence

Having the right intelligence is not enough to ensure that intelligence is turned into action. Breaking down information and process silos across security teams allows financial organisation to analyse and act on the most pertinent information. Everyone has access to the risk and threats that matter most, and orchestration and automation of response helps overwhelmed security teams prioritise response plans and improve efficiencies in their security programme.

Integrating internal security tools and technologies, while also connecting to external sources of intelligence, creates a single source of intelligence that feeds operations and enables organisations to direct action against the threats that matter most. The outcomes of those actions further feed intelligence, providing the ability to further refine the efficacy of the entire security lifecycle.

This approach provides a continuous feedback loop for the people, processes and technologies that make up the security programme. It allows financial institutions to keep up with threat actors that have consistently adapted their methods to profit at the expense of the financial industry. Something that won’t stop anytime soon.

While financial services institutions tend to operate with security front of mind, there is still an opportunity to collaborate more within the industry and increase intelligence sharing, so CSOs and CTOs can understand as much as they can about the threats they are facing. For example, what types or variants of malware have been used to steal, delete, or ransom personal identifiable information or IP specific to financial services? What ransomware has been used in attacks against other organisations within the industry? How does this ransomware work and how does it ransom the targeted data? Ultimately, the more you know, the better and quicker you’ll be able to respond to a new threat and remain protected.

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Technology

Blackline reveals CEO succession plan

Blackline reveals CEO succession plan 4

By President & COO Marc Huffman appointed CEO as of Jan. 1st, 2021;
Founder Therese Tucker to serve as executive chair

Accounting automation software leader BlackLine, Inc. (Nasdaq: BL) today announced that the board of directors has elected Marc Huffman as chief executive officer, effective January 1st, 2021.  Mr. Huffman currently serves as president and chief operating officer.  Therese Tucker, who has served as CEO since founding BlackLine in 2001, will continue to serve on the company’s board as executive chair.

A seasoned SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) executive with more than 25 years of experience driving growth at successful software companies, Huffman joined BlackLine in early 2018 as chief operating officer.  He was named president in February 2020, leading the company’s worldwide sales, marketing, technology and all customer-facing organizations.  Since Huffman joined, BlackLine has scaled its sales and customer success teams, strategically repositioned its go-to-market plan, completed a global reseller agreement with SAP, established a subsidiary in Japan, and entered into a number of strategic alliances with the world’s leading consulting and advisory firms.

Prior to BlackLine, Huffman served as president of worldwide sales and distribution at NetSuite.  During his 14-year tenure, NetSuite grew from $3 million to $1 billion in annual revenue and became recognized as a global SaaS powerhouse.

“I’ve been so pleased with the leadership Marc has demonstrated over the past two and a half years, most recently driving our response to the COVID-19 pandemic – mitigating disruption to the business and our customers.  Because of Marc’s leadership, skill set, cultural alignment and stellar performance, BlackLine is in a better position to grow and scale than ever before,” said Ms. Tucker.  “I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved at BlackLine and believe Marc is the kind of leader I can trust to take our customer-centric values, vision and growth to the next level.  I am also thrilled that in addition to providing strategic oversight as executive chair, I will now have more time to focus on the areas I love most – product innovation and customer success.”

The announced transition is part of a multi-year succession plan that has involved seeking potential successors, bringing the right person on board, seeing that person excel, and Tucker and Huffman working methodically together over several years to build out the leadership team and strategic growth plan and ensure values were aligned.

“I am ready and excited for this next step.  BlackLine is a special place with a strong culture and I am looking forward to leading the company through its next phase of growth,” said Huffman.  “We’ve got the team, the plan, and now we are focused on execution as we continue to scale the business and make BlackLine an indispensable platform for Finance & Accounting organizations globally.”

Commenting on the CEO and executive chair changes, John Brennan, BlackLine’s chairman of the board, said, “We are excited to announce Marc’s appointment as CEO.  His experience successfully expanding and scaling NetSuite into new strategic and geographical markets is invaluable as BlackLine continues to penetrate what we believe is still an untapped market.  Coupled with his proven track record at BlackLine we are confident that, under Marc’s leadership, the company’s momentum, growth and success will only accelerate.”

Mr. Brennan added, “Therese has been a strong and inspirational leader since she founded BlackLine just over 19 years ago.  Her unwavering determination and commitment to both customers and employees has been the driving force behind the company’s incredible journey from start-up to global market leader.  We look forward to having her serve as executive chair, a position in which she will continue to shape the future of the company she has built from the ground up.”

Upon Tucker’s assumption of the executive chair role, Brennan will serve as the board’s lead outside director.

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