FOUR LESSONS FROM 2016 THAT WILL DEFINE APPROACHES TO CYBERSECURITY IN 2017

By Louis-James Davis, CEO, VST Enterprises

 While our understanding of cybersecurity is growing, it’s still far too limited. This year’s Cyber Governance Health Check Report revealed that only 33% of UK boards have clearly set and understood their appetite for cyber risk, both for existing business and for new digital innovations they have absorbed or introduced. Although this is up from 18% last year1, it may be nowhere near enough, since our vulnerability to cyber-attack is an urgent and growing threat. 

Businesses don’t have to be technology companies to mitigate the threats. They need simple, ubiquitous tech with end-to-end encryption, managed by experts in an uncertain and ever changing landscape of new opportunities and threats.

Innovation must be nimble and quick to market 

2016 has been about maintaining stability amid uncertainty. “Innovations” in secure payment, document transfer and delivery that have gone to market have echoed technology of pre-existing solutions, and the most revolutionary has been Microsoft’s 3D scan facial verification technology that we’ve seen in services like Selfie Pay. In 2017, security solutions must move beyond building upon pre-existing solutions. Research and development, and governmental investment in particular will be instrumental in safeguarding businesses against security threats and product shrinkage, as well as revolutionising process efficiency.

The counterfeit trade weakens global economies 

Counterfeiting was a direct cause of India’s cash crisis. On the surface the cash crisis seems a sudden threat, the reason for the withdrawal of the bank notes was driven by a rapid response to reform. Prior to the ban on old 500 and 2,000 Rupee notes, individuals were passing off fake bank notes for payment recreated with easy to acquire materials such as ink and synthetic paper. The reform momentum in India is building, and while the demonetization move may appear to be a threat, it signifies a positive move towards economic stimulus, minimising the circulation of bogus bank notes.

Counterfeit goods are a significant issue globally, and between November 2015 and February 2016, Interpol had gathered the largest ever haul of counterfeit food and drink ever seized. In the UK alone during that period, authorities recovered nearly 10,000 litres of fake or adulterated alcohol including wine, whisky and vodka.2 Some see these as victimless crimes, but the cost is spread to every individual, both financially through tax and physically, as products passed off as the real deal can contain harmful ingredients that can cause illness and even death.

In monetary terms, £600m in wine and spirits duty is lost through alcohol fraud annually. This is enough money to build a hospital the size of Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital every single year[1]. Fake cigarettes cost the UK economy £2billion a year3. If anti-counterfeiting solutions were implemented, these considerable sums would relieve strain on our public services and leave us all better off.

In 2017, the EU and UK governmental agenda will focus on crackdowns on counterfeit and corporate corruption. This will be a key driving force behind technological investment in 2017.

Mobile: the catalyst to innovation 

Mobile has seen significant growth in 2016, and more and more consumers trust their devices enough to use them to pay for goods or services at the point of sale. APAC leads the way in mobile payments, with 53% of connected consumers using their mobiles to make payments, in comparison to 33% in North America and 35% in Europe.4 When I think back to one my first mobile phones, Nokia’s 3210, which sold over 160 million units over its lifespan, it’s incredible to see the technological trajectory that mobile has taken.

We’ve seen mobile technology grow in ways we never could have imagined, and technological convergence has been the main proponent in this evolution. It’s amazing to think that one of the world’s first computers, the Manchester Mark 1 built in 1948 was the size of a room and performed what we would now consider to be basic mathematical calculations. Today computers are the size of your palm and we use them as our personal assistant, accountant, post office and shop front with no need to bring additional tools along with you. In 2017, tech companies will hone mobile solutions that will encourage better security and more consumer trust.

IT security must not be kept in silos 

In 2016, IT security has been treated differently depending on the user. Separate security strategies exist for mobile devices, the public sector, the b2b and b2c markets, the public and the private sector. As the way we work with electronics in our work and home lives converges, it is becoming more clear that the principles of cybersecurity should be the same for everyone. Simply put, this should be to ensure that data and transactions sent are genuine and uncorrupted, and that data and money goes directly to the intended recipient without interception.

The need to move towards a ubiquitous way of treating data becomes clearer as business and consumer IT overlaps more and more. Separate approaches to security threatens quick action against universal threats that loom over electronic payments, confidential patient records and even proof of entitlement to travel, work or claim benefits alike.

As we go into 2017, the takeaway lesson is that change is inevitable and necessary, presenting opportunities to become smarter, better and more effective. Technology must not stagnate. Old solutions will not be effective against new problems, and those who champion technology for good must be as reactive, nimble and hungry to drive forward as those malicious few who exploit the holes for financial gain, notoriety or simply to cause chaos.

 [1]https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/521484/Cyber_Governance_Health_Check_report_2015.pdf

2  https://www.europol.europa.eu/newsroom/news/largest-ever-seizures-of-fake-food-and-drink-in-interpol-europol-operation

2http://www.wsta.co.uk/publications-useful-documents/109-2016-budget-submission/file

3http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/counterfeit-cigarettes-flooding-britain-contain-7966333

4http://paymentweek.com/asia-pacific-leads-world-mobile-payments-latest-study-kantar-tns/

[1]http://www.wsta.co.uk/publications-useful-documents/109-2016-budget-submission/file

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