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MANAGING APPS IN THE ENTERPRISE

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Ojas Rege

Ojas Rege, VP of Strategy, MobileIron

In my last article on managing a multi-OS environment, I highlighted that the future of mobile is rapidly changing for financial services. As the consumerisation of IT continues, we are beginning to see a number of trends originate from the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon, which are creating new challenges for organisations. Take Bring Your Own Application (BYOA) for example.

Ojas Rege

Ojas Rege

According to Gartner, the number of app downloads in 2013 will reach 102 billion, with the total value hitting $26bn – just over £16bn. This compares to 64 billion downloads in 2012. It’s evident that mobile apps have become a consumer commodity and now they are starting to filter into the enterprise. As employees demand to use their own devices at work, they now expect to use their own apps within the workplace, inevitably making mobile apps business-critical. As a result, organisations must move away from being focused on the device to thinking about applications, data and content.
This represents a paradigm shift in IT and poses a number of challenges for the IT department in protecting confidential data, provisioning mobility whilst at the same time maintaining security. In an attempt to fill the gap on what IT currently provides to increase productivity, employees are taking matters into their own hands to get their jobs done, by acquiring apps from public app stores such as Apple’s or Google Play and using them on either corporate or personal devices within the workplace. As a result the IT department is losing centralised management, security, and oversight.

The problem with consumer apps is that the risk of them accessing corporate information for example, a concern for many of our customers is that sensitive data will end up in an employee’s personal Dropbox account. The risk is that companies will take an overly restrictive approach that damages the user experience. When employees have a bad user experience on their device, they look elsewhere for enterprise productivity tools. This can drive them to take risky actions such as using unauthorised file sharing apps.

The time is now
It’s time for financial services to rethink their Mobile Application Management (MAM) to ensure that they are taking secure steps in enabling mobility and are ultimately delivering the ultimate user experience for employees. Mobile applications should be managed and secured in a centralised way which will help to distribute applications by role, help manage the application lifecycle and provide the IT department with the visibility and control it needs.
There is an opportunity here for financial services to optimise and embrace BYOA and to take back control. Many of our customers within the financial sector are already doing this and are becoming mobile first; by embracing mobile as their primary computing platform.

Here are my top tips for how financial organisations can securely manage applications within the enterprise and be seen as an enabler of BYOA by delivering the ultimate experience for employees.

Build a trust model

An organisation should take a practical look and identify what the real risks of data loss are. Based on those risks, Mobile IT can identify what level of enterprise content should be made available. We call this developing a trust model. A trust model establishes which users are trusted with which data or apps under what circumstances. Every major organisation has gone through data classification to establish this underpinning for its security policies. With a clear trust model, financial services can provision and control access to apps used on employee or corporate owned devices. They must also establish which applications are required within the workplace, allowed, or disallowed and then associate these apps with rules that specify the consequences of being out of policy.

Build self-defending apps
By 2017, Gartner expects 25% of enterprises to have developed their own app stores  and we’ve already seen a number of our own financial services customers follow this trend. Sixty per cent of our customers have also started to build their own apps to support various banking functions and mobilise internal functions.

With this “build your own” approach, organisations can create and directly publish private apps to their end-users without putting them in a commercial storefront and ultimately putting corporate data at risk.

While security is paramount, it is equally important to deliver the native app experience end users expect and want. Financial services organisations can address security issues by building “self-defending” apps. Self-defending apps are secured through a centralised platform that can prevent unauthorised data sharing, protect data-at-rest, and provide secure authentication.

Have an effective distribution and discovery mechanism

Mobile apps have transformed the way we use mobile devices in our consumer lives and have triggered a wave of mobile app development in the enterprise. However, it is not that easy to just build an app and get employees to use it. Once an app is built, how do employees find out about it and how do they get it? Do you post it on a consumer app store? Send a list to employees and let them find it? Host it on a server internally? We’ have seen a number of financial services companies doing a combination of all of these, and it’s a mess.

The answer for many CIOs is to leverage OS-agnostic, internal “enterprise app storefronts” that allow developers and IT to publish internal apps or link to external, public app stores. An enterprise app storefront gives IT a way to simplify and control the review, publishing, discovery, and delivery of mobile apps in a user-friendly model that is familiar to end-users from using consumer app stores. IT and internal developers can publish mobile apps or links to external apps to the enterprise app store. IT can review the app, approve it, and set policy boundaries based upon role and mobile platform. An enterprise app store lets IT enable the publishing, discovery, and delivery of mobile apps in a secure and consumer-friendly way.

View BYOA as an opportunity

BYOA should be viewed as an opportunity, not as a threat. BYOA can create positive change once there is a robust MAM strategy in place.

We are in an age of consumerisation and it is relentless. And just like BYOD, BYOA is here to stay. Therefore financial organisations can’t afford to bury their heads in the sand, as the momentum of mobile adoption will just continue to increase.

If restricted, employees will find a way to bring their own devices and applications to work, so IT should want to help and empower users by defining clear and coherent processes which suit both the need of employees and the business.
We must remember that mobility transforms a business and boosts productivity amongst employees, so it’s time to embrace BYOA and become mobile first; by embracing mobile as the primary IT platform and delivering the ultimate user experience for employees.

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Everything you need to know about APIs for business

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Everything you need to know about APIs for business 1

By Omar Javaid, president, Vonage API Platform, Vonage 

If your work brings you into close proximity with technology, chances are that you’ve come across APIs. Like many of the tech acronyms we hear –  DNS, VOIP, SaaS – APIs fall into a category of terms that most of us would consider best left to the IT department. However, APIs are a vital tool for any tech-enabled business, and a basic understanding of them at management level can help to drive sales, increase customer satisfaction, and improve the user experience.

Although they seem daunting, getting to grips with APIs is surprisingly straightforward. API stands for Application Programming Interface, and can be simply defined as a software tool used to control programmes. Essentially, APIs create sets of rules that allow applications to communicate with each other – they are the part of the server that receives requests and sends responses. Today, when data is transferred between a pair (or more) of programs or applications, an API normally makes it happen.

To give a real-world example: when a user types Instagram’s URL into their browser and hits the Return key, a request is subsequently transmitted to Instagram’s remote servers. That browser then processes the response code it receives and displays the page. For the browser, Instagram’s server is an API – allowing it to communicate and relay information back to you without interruption or delay.

The job of the API is to simplify the complex data exchanged between these servers, and to make the interaction as seamless as possible for the end user. Considering that the vast majority of our business and personal lives now take place virtually, any solution that optimises the online experience is extremely valuable.

Using APIs to improve the customer experience 

One of the core benefits of APIs is that they enable businesses to free themselves from the time consuming and costly process of developing in-house software to power a single core application. Instead, developers can outsource certain tasks to remote “off-the-shelf” APIs, saving time, money, and allowing resources to be channeled elsewhere. These add-on services allow businesses to offer a more complete, one-stop solution to customers, whilst streamlining the process to optimise user experience.

Omar Javaid

Omar Javaid

Although we may not always realise it, APIs are playing a vital silent role in almost every purchase and interaction we have online. Take booking a holiday for example. As we browse comparison sights, APIs are working furiously behind the scene to aggregate information from airline databases, hotel websites, and excursion providers. The API performs the back and forth needed to retrieve the information, whilst we are able to sit back and view all of the results on the same page. Simplifying this process enables travel comparison websites to make the search for holidays quick and easy, and encourages customers to stay on the site by offering all that they need in one easy to consume package.

APIs also allow smaller businesses to utilise tools provided by some of the world’s largest and most successful companies. Google’s Calendar API for example could be used within a beauty salon website to enable customers to book and schedule treatment reminders, whilst Apple’s weather tool could be plugged-in to an events company website to give customers real-time weather updates. While the API’s developer does retain ultimate control over how the API is used, there are still countless ways to integrate these tools to benefit your business and improve the functionality of your website.

Communications APIs

The recent Covid-19 pandemic in particular has highlighted the value of an API class that normally receives little attention; communication APIs.

Today, companies are boosting spending on unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS), along with video conferencing, collaboration, and voice technology solutions given the exponential growth in home and remote working as a result. Where face-to-face contact is limited by necessity, businesses need to be able to communicate with employees and customers in ways which are secure, simple, and cost-effective.

Given how rapidly the technology landscape changes, APIs are the clear solution to avoiding the expense of developing tools from scratch, in addition to harnessing the power of the advanced features offered by established API providers.

Using them, businesses are able to adapt to suit changing customer preferences; for example offering an online chatbot to handle customer queries, or by using multi-channel messaging to connect with customers via WhatsApp or Messenger. These tools are not only useful, but can also allow you to gain intelligence into a customer’s preferences and habits – both useful marketing gauges.

On the other hand, comms APIs can also help to address problems that may crop up internally within organisations and workforces. There are APIs which allow callers to automatically sync calendars, meaning that meetings will only be scheduled when all parties can attend. There are also APIs for timezone conversion, permissions requests, and for video link calls and messaging. With the work from home trend continuing for the foreseeable future, investing in these areas is critical if businesses want to keep delivering at the highest levels.

Considering all of the above, it’s clear that we can expect to see the adoption of APIs continue. Developers are constantly working to create increasingly sophisticated products, and many have moved towards exclusively building and hosting APIs, rather than building the apps themselves – creating a so called “API Economy” of sorts.

This focus on creating the best possible APIs has allowed smaller businesses to harness the collective expertise of the world’s largest and most successful companies, and the chance to use these tools represents a fantastic opportunity for growth. The reach of APIs extends far beyond the IT department, and with a basic understanding, they can be used by senior management and leadership teams to optimise all areas of the business – not bad for three small letters.

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Unexplained Wealth Orders: Rightly Celebrated or Over-Rated?

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Unexplained Wealth Orders: Rightly Celebrated or Over-Rated? 2

By Nicola Sharp of financial crime specialists Rahman Ravelli considers the attention given to unexplained wealth orders – and emphasises that they can be challenged.

There is little doubt that many sectors of the media – and their readers – enjoy a story that involves an unexplained wealth order (UWO). They do, after all, have many of the ingredients that many look for in a good tale: allegations of wrongdoing on a large scale, someone being made to hand over assets worth more than most people will earn in a lifetime and the sense that justice has been seen to be done.

In the latest UWO, which was widely covered in the media last week, Leeds businessman Mansoor Mahmood Hussain was compelled to hand over property worth just short of £10M, after being accused of acting as a money launderer. He has been ordered to surrender the assets because the National Crime Agency (NCA) believed his wealth was the proceeds of crime, and so considered him a suitable target for a UWO.

Introduced by the Criminal Finances Act 2017, UWOs give law enforcement agencies powers to require persons to explain how they came to possess their assets, and to show that their wealth has come from legitimate sources. A UWO can be sought without any civil or criminal proceedings having begun. There is no need for the subject of a UWO to have been convicted of an offence or to have had a civil law judgement against them. Agencies can apply to the High Court for a UWO against any property valued at over £50,000, if the person owning it is reasonably suspected of being involved in serious crime (or connected to a person who is) and there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a person’s lawfully-obtained income would be insufficient to allow that person to obtain that property.

Like Zamira Hajiyeva before him, Mansoor Hussain’s inability to provide a credible, innocent explanation for his wealth has cost him – and generated headlines. Hajiyeva may be best known for somehow racking up £16M of expenditure at Harrods. But this only became known when she was the first person to be the subject of UWOs. The NCA expected her to explain how she had bought a £11.5M Knightsbridge house and a £10.5M golf course in Ascot, bearing in mind her husband is the former head of the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan, had a salary of no more than $70,000 and was convicted of fraud and embezzlement. Earlier this year, she lost her appeal against the UWOs, thus enabling the media to re-run her story and giving the NCA the chance to make approving noises about UWOs being a valuable tool in tackling illicit finance.

But before there is a rush to applaud UWOs, it should be said that the NCA’s relationship with them has been a chequered one, to say the least. Since becoming available to the NCA, the agency’s success rate with UWOs has been patchy. This is despite the standard of proof for UWOs being significantly lower than that required in criminal cases. Last year saw the NCA granted three UWOs for London property valued at £80M. Yet less than a year later, these UWOs were discharged, with a judge criticising the NCA’s “unreliable’’ assumptions and “artificial and flawed’’ reasoning. The Court of Appeal then refused the agency permission to appeal this decision.

While a UWO is a tool that enables law enforcement agencies to seize assets they believe are the proceeds of crime without anyone ever being convicted, it does not yet appear to have become the great weapon against illicit wealth that many would have hoped. Of the four cases begun since UWOs were introduced, two are still being contested. Mansoor Hussain’s case is the first time a UWO has successfully led to the recovery of assets from an individual.

Although, a UWO can be seen as effective in certain situations, it will often be considered the most (and perhaps only) viable option when a prosecution has failed or when the authorities do not believe there is enough evidence for a realistic chance of a conviction.

When being faced with an UWO it should be remembered that whilst agreeing to settle and hand over property is not an admission of guilt, anyone facing a UWO must consider carefully how they respond to the authorities. It is vitally important to take the right advice. Deciding how to proceed when assets worth millions are at stake can be the biggest decision a person ever has to make.

In such circumstances it will often be the case that an intelligent, robustly-argued challenge to a UWO – and, in particular, to the allegations being made by the law enforcement agency seeking the UWO – will bring success. But that success will depend on knowing precisely how to respond – and who to turn to – if and when you become the intended target of a UWO.

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How Siloed Data Leaves Financial Institutions Open to Fraud

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How Siloed Data Leaves Financial Institutions Open to Fraud 3

By Stephany Lapierre, CEO Tealbook

Reducing the risk of fraud is a top priority for all financial institutions since fraud is responsible for massive profit loss, as well as the degradation of an institution’s integrity and brand.

In trying to prevent fraud, most executives look to protect themselves from the outside in, implementing layers of security and launching reactive measures. However, in order to truly protect your organization from fraud, it’s imperative to begin by looking at your existing internal structures. The most critical and often overlooked area to assess is how your organization obtains, enriches, and distributes data.

Streamlining and scrubbing your data can increase profitability without adding to resource spend. Having good data allows you to complete your due diligence on vendors and external entities your organization regularly deals with. It favorably adjusts your efficiency ratio and reduces risk by eliminating redundancies, conflicting information, and information gaps. In addition, it allows smaller teams to operate with increased scale and effectiveness. In turn, this leads to a more effective vendor vetting process and less room for error in payment information verification.

Conversely, poorly managed data is confusing and deceiving and can play an unfortunate role in giving fraudulent access to outside parties through internal miscommunications. For example, updates could be made in one system and not another, and suddenly different departments are working with different data sets like payment information or legal formation documents that regulators look for in audits, and no one knows what is true or accurate. This effect snowballs over time, creating massive holes in the integrity of the data, creating unnecessary risk exposure and audit failures.

All of these vulnerabilities can serve as the foundation for developing a risk management protocol that may be rendered useless if it is based on poor data. It is  impossible to properly vet vendors and suppliers or verify payment information if the data is unreliable.

By investing in a solid Data Foundation, you’ll see an increase in the success of your risk management and fraud prevention measures. In many instances, you won’t need to add more steps or resources, just power your existing systems with clean, agile, and accurate data to see improved efficiency.

Here’s a closer look at the most common vulnerabilities within a typical financial institution’s data ecosystem:

Fragmented Organization Structure

As organizations grow and scale, it’s inevitable that different subsections will become isolated from one another and begin different processes for data management. Poorly managed systems can exacerbate this lack of communication and threaten data integrity.

It may not seem like cause for concern if a few different arms of an organization aren’t completely in sync. However, in the financial space, this issue rarely applies to just one or two organizational divides. For example, a prominent US-based financial institution boasts over 90 business units, all of which need to be synergized in order to prevent inaccurate data, redundancies, and problems with regulatory information gathering. This siloed information is, unfortunately, a common practice that needs to be addressed.

Unmanaged Proprietary Systems

In an attempt to serve data in a highly specialized way, many institutions have explored developing proprietary data systems for internal use. However, because of factors like employee turnover or an inability to keep up with data integrity best practices, these legacy systems quickly become obsolete and unmanaged. Their custom nature also renders them inflexible and unable to integrate with other solutions.

When trying to work around an unmanaged system, different branches of an institution may turn to different solutions. When work is being done across different platforms, this reduces visibility and increases risk for inaccuracies, which leads to poor decisions, costly rework, and potentially fraud.

If your organization is reliant on a proprietary system, consider if that system is functional and scalable. If it’s not, you may want to look into a flexible data management system that can work with other technologies.

 Disparate Information Across Systems

Mergers, acquisitions, and growth also lead to using and implementing many different ERP solutions and antiquated legacy software that are forced to communicate with each other using painful manual efforts. A major problem arises from the fact that these systems operate across numerous lines of businesses, all with different siloed data. By having so many siloed systems that could be compromised with harmful data, these disparate data sources leave banks and other financial institutions exposed to unnecessary risk.

Different departments have different needs, so it makes sense that they would use different solutions, but it’s important that those solutions pull from a single source of truth in order to prevent the types of data inaccuracies that lead to vulnerabilities.

Final Thoughts

Closing the holes in your data integrity is the most proactive way a financial institution can defend against fraud. As hackers get increasingly creative and aggressive, it becomes even more critical that organizations have a trusted Data Foundation to base their decisions on. This can be achieved by ensuring that siloed systems are powered by consistent and accurate data from a single reliable source.

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