By Martin Voorzanger, EclecticIQ
There have been significant fluctuations in the value of cryptocurrency in the past twelve months, a volatility that has already enabled some traders to reap the rewards. However, it’s not just the financial watchdogs that are worried.
Beyond traders, there is another group profiting from the turbulence of cryptocurrencies – cyber criminals. The digital bank heist of tomorrow is quickly becoming a reality, with a notable increase in crypto exchange breaches and reports of crypto malware on the rise.
Crime is money
What’s interesting about some of the criminal cryptocurrency activity seen to date is that it is based around well-known methods of hacking, such as phishing and social engineering. One example of this is the NiceHash raid in 2017. Cyber criminals accessed the company’s payment services through an employee PC, resulting in the theft of 4,700 Bitcoins – valued at a cool $70million at the time. Not only that, Syscoin was targeted through its GitHub account, where a slightly adjusted client was uploaded. As the company advises to use 2FA, it could be suggested that it was uploaded through an employee’s (or other code contributor’s) GitHub account.
With South Korea’s largest crypto exchange, Bithumb, an employee’s home computer was targeted and a vast amount of personal data stolen. While there was no theft of funds here, the hack had a significant impact on Bithumb nonetheless. Its customers reported emails and calls defrauding them of money, leading to both reputational damage and financial loss for the company. In a separate incident in June 2018, hackers did indeed access funds from Bithumb – at the cost of a cool $30 million.
Security – via blockchain – lies at the heart of many cryptocurrencies, but it’s clear that this alone doesn’t go far enough. Regardless of the robustness of blockchain, employees within these exchanges, along with their devices, remain a weak link in the security “chain”. That’s why good security hygiene is not optional – it’s an essential part of any finance function, crypto or otherwise.
The new bots
In addition to the more ‘traditional’ cybercrime tactics, there are new techniques emerging to target the crypto industry specifically. Cryptojacking is one example of this, which sees employees’ computers targeted for criminals to mine cryptocurrencies – without knowledge of the user or their organisation. The rising value of cryptocurrencies means this is a lucrative exploit for cybercriminals and, while each device can only mine small amounts of cryptocurrencies, hackers are getting into so many machines that they are able to create botnets. Collectively, this can deliver large profits.
Cryptojacking isn’t as destructive as other attacks using ransomware, for example. However it still means the devices are compromised, which not only leads to poor performance and affects the longevity of devices, but also means the door is wide open to more serious threats.
But the issue of cryptojacking is moving beyond the employee PC into far more worrying territory, with the first case of a major industrial control system network infected with cryptojacking malware discovered earlier this year. Security firm Radiflow made the discovery, warning that an attack of this nature “can threaten the stability and availability of the physical processes of a critical infrastructure operator”.
A very real reality
Whether criminals are looking to steal crypto assets, mine them covertly or simply cause disruption, the threat is without doubt very real – and growing day by day. A recent report from Microsoft noted a huge surge in coin-mining trojans in Windows PCs in the past six months, advising businesses not to treat them as a nuisance but as a serious threat. The report also noted that while external cybercriminals are often the perpetrators, there is also a growing threat of employees planting unauthorised miners on powerful company systems.
Amongst all of these various threats, humans remain the weakest link in the security chain. Cybercriminals are still using the tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) that they know work – and individuals continue to be manipulated and conned into compliance. Despite the security of the cryptocurrencies themselves, the technical systems and exchanges that surround them continue to let the bad guys in.
It’s clear that criminal activity in the crypto space is only going to increase further. As such, organisations across the world must ensure they stay abreast of developments in the crypto world and have adequate measures in place to defend their networks accordingly. Not only that, it’s vital that the employees themselves understand how cybercriminals work and the threats associated with social engineering. Only then can an organisation effectively protect against this new – and prolific – type of threat.
The case for AI technology adoption in financial back-office roles to improve efficiency
By Tomas Gogar, AI CEO, Rossum
In this era, digital transformation isn’t anything new. Nonetheless, it can still cause a lot of confusion and resistance for some companies, many of which are often slow, unwilling or unable to implement the necessary changes to embrace technology. As a result, entire industries are barely scratching the surface when it comes to shifting to the digital world, and many, from the insurance industry to logistics and delivery are still catching up on the digital transformation.
The banking and financial sector have been notoriously slow in adapting to the online world. They paid the high price for it, giving way to a flurry of incredibly successful new disruptive players, built on cutting edge tech from the ground up. From Transferwise, Revolut or Venmo, to GoCardless, this new generation of fintech companies addressed consumers changing expectations in a way that traditional retails banks simply couldn’t.
To catch up, incumbent players have prioritised the user interfaces, giving the appearance of a digital offering, and oftentimes leaving the back end infrastructure untouched, and hence the processing power, accuracy and speed unaffected. Back-office functions, although they are essential to the smooth running of a business, have seen very little change and as a result, too many people in these functions are still tied up typing information into spreadsheets and software forms – in fact, manual data entry is a prime example of how much resources the offline legacy wastes. Take Accounts Payable for example, invoice data entry in this sector is estimated to eat up roughly 100 human lives worth of time every single day.
With the significant increase in the number of employees working from home due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the back-office challenges have suddenly come to light, and finally, companies that got away with minimal changes so far, are realising that they need a structural digital overhaul, and fast. We believe the solution to this is artificial intelligence backed software solutions.
Previous technology based solutions essentially did half the job, heavily depending on human fact checking. Consequently, these solutions were actually quite cumbersome and time consuming and costly to implement and maintain, and offered only incremental improvements. Now with AI, automises data processing completely removing the need for human fact checking (and human error!). Additionally, deployment is massively simplified with an average setup time of one week, compared to about 6 months for previous technologies. AI solutions are also highly adaptable to new formats and scenarios, allowing businesses to test them in say one department and to quickly roll out a single unified solution across all functions of the business. Data can be extracted from any invoice layout with no template or rule set-up, saving significant and effort. Rather than trying to change and standardise a highly fragmented environment (there are about as many invoice formats as there are businesses), AI can work with it, and optimise the overall process and offer a unified answer to a fragmented ecosystem.
Taking Accounts Payable as an example again, this is a sector that has relied by and large on Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software solutions in an attempt to remove some of the manual labour involved in reading processing and filing invoices. Although OCR did improve the processes to a certain degree, ultimately these types of solutions still required a long and expensive set up processes and a lot of manual labour to actually capture the data accurately with templates and manual data entry. Now, with AI software, like the one we have created, this is a solution that makes data extraction simple and easy, saving time and man power, as well as building on existing infrastructure. It has the ability to transform this industry.
In conclusion, for a sector that has been slow to adopt digital change, AI is THE technology answer that is finally fixing the invisible pain points that businesses had simply accepted as unremovable. AI applied in this way offers a viable way forward and businesses that were notoriously slow and resistant to embrace the digital transition, incentivised to make a change, may actually end up at the head of the pack. Skipping ‘older tech’ and jumping straight into AI solutions, the best scenario available by far, is indeed the smartest, fastest and most cost effective way to transition into the digital world.
InsurTech is helping to drive the digital evolution of the UK motor retail industry
By Alan Inskip, Tempcover CEO & Founder
If the last nine months have made anything clear, it is that the pandemic has fundamentally changed both buying and driving habits for UK motorists. The latest Tempcover research has revealed that online-only used car sales had increased fifteen-fold during the pandemic among 2,000 survey respondents.
Before lockdown, just 4% of used car sales were fully-digital. The vast majority of those surveyed opted for either a physical purchase (50%) or a digitally-assisted purchase (45%), relying on a combination of digital tools and an in person viewing or road test before buying.
While car sales overall are down on last year’s figures*, one in six (17%) of those surveyed had bought a used car during lockdown, with two thirds (64%) relying on a fully-digital purchase journey. Digitally-assisted purchases counted for one in five (20%) used car sales, while in person sales fell to just 15% – no surprise considering the ongoing social distancing measures.
And when it comes to arranging insurance for their recently-purchased vehicle, our survey participants displayed an equal balance between telephone and online as the preferred method (48% each). Nearly a third of those (28%) said they wait up to ten minutes for their policy to be confirmed, and a further 22% wait as long as 20 minutes to get cover.
The switch to digital insurance, driven by InsurTech
In the midst of rapid and significant market changes, many traditional insurers have lacked the agility and flexibility to adapt accordingly. InsurTech can provide immense value in bridging that gap, as the digital solutions are entirely scalable, with the flexibility to substantially increase in size and across multiple geographies, with minimal disruption.
The ongoing decline of physical transactions in the motor retail industry is a perfect example of how InsurTech is adding value. Several national blue-chip dealerships, with both physical and digital showroom floors, are already streamlining their online purchase process by offering temporary driveaway insurance policies to cover the vehicle for a fixed-term, usually between five to seven days, as part of the purchase journey.
The entirely online one-step user experience is the first of its kind in the traditionally outdated and inflexible driveaway insurance industry and it is dramatically simplifying the process of how insurance is purchased and consumed. Due to the flexibility and agility of the digital solution, each retailer has its own unique URL, where the customer can obtain a simple single-cost policy in just 90 seconds through an entirely digital process, which fits in line with the evolving consumer purchase trends.
For the dealers, this technology means more efficient stock clearance times and greater profitability. For the buyers, it takes the stress out of searching for annual insurance on the spot, and provides the driver with near instant cover so that they can immediately drive their new car, while giving them the opportunity to thoroughly research the best annual policy to suit their needs. An added benefit is there’s no risk to any existing No Claims Discount, as it’s a separate and standalone policy.
While there is a chance these trends will reverse to some extent post pandemic, it is clear that the consumer appetite for digital purchase and consumption is here to stay, and InsurTech will continue to lead the way in making motor insurance more easily-accessible across digital platforms, while offering consumers the best value for money.
Five ways enterprises are using the public cloud
By Michael Chalmers, MD EMEA at Contino
The public cloud is the most significant enabler in a generation. It’s causing a massive shift in how businesses are operating and tearing apart previous business models.
Amid challenging economic times, it’s inevitable that spending within IT is dropping. However, the cloud is the only segment that is still growing. The public cloud is increasingly becoming a central element of enterprise IT.
Contino asked 250 IT decision-makers at enterprise companies across Europe, USA and APAC within companies of over 5,000 employees about their views on the state of the public cloud within their organisation at the beginning of 2020. Nearly all of them (99%) saw a significant technical benefit compared with on-premises.
Here are some other ways public cloud is being used by enterprises:
- Widely, albeit not yet business wide.
A whopping 77% of enterprises are using the public cloud in some capacity. Overall, 50% of businesses are utilising a hybrid cloud, 22% single private cloud, 20% multi-cloud, 7% single public cloud and only 1% are using only on-premises.
But only 13% of businesses have a fully-fledged public cloud program. The largest set of respondents (42%) have multiple apps/projects deployed in the cloud. 24% were still working on initial proofs-of-concept, and 18% were in the planning stages.
83% of respondents said they want to grow their cloud program. Almost half (48%) do wish to grow, but with caution, while 36% want to move as quickly as possible.
Only 4% plan to revert to on-premises but are in no rush to do so.
- To enhance security and compliance versus on-premises, although these are still also seen as barriers to adoption.
A massive 64% of respondents stated they find this more secure than on-premises, and only 7% see it to be less secure. 72% found it easier to stay compliant with business data in the cloud versus only 4% who found it harder. However, 48% cited that their biggest barrier for not using the cloud was security, and 37% stated the need to remain compliant was the most prevalent blocker.
Other challenges also posed a barrier: a lack of skills, the cost to purchase and cloud-native operating models not working with existing investments made up 29-32% of responses.
19% stated that lack of leadership buy-in is the biggest barrier, reflecting that a significant number of IT departments have a need for this solution but have not been provided with the support to do so. However, relatively speaking, this was one of the least-cited barriers.
- For improved efficiency, scalability and agility, but vendor lock-in is still a major concern.
The top three cited technical benefits of public cloud were better efficiency, agility and scalability versus on-premises. However, 63% of IT professionals were ‘somewhat’ or ‘very much’ afraid of the commitment that can come with investing in the cloud. This is another major barrier that is preventing businesses from migrating to the cloud.
Only 23% are not afraid of being locked in and a meagre 5% have no fear at all. However, the fact that 77% of businesses are using the cloud shows any risk of being locked in is outweighed by the benefits of the cloud.
- To align IT with the business.
This is by far the most cited business benefit of the public cloud. 100% of those surveyed witnessed varied business benefits versus on-premises. Other major benefits include the ability to focus on new revenues (43%), accelerated time-to-market (43%), and increased ROI (40%).
- To accelerate innovation and increases cost-effectiveness.
Innovating in the cloud was quicker for 81% of respondents. What’s more, not one person surveyed said the cloud slowed down their innovation. 79% have saved money with the cloud and only 5% have found it more of an expense than on-premises.
Beyond Transactions: The Payment Revolution
By Marwan Forzley, CEO of Veem The uninterrupted disruption brought on by the pandemic accelerated the need for robust, digital-first...
The UK’s hidden payments crisis: why businesses should rethink their payments strategy
By Edwin Abl, Chief Marketing Officer at Modulr. As the economic conditions imposed by the Coronavirus endure, businesses are facing a...
Investing into a more sustainable future: changing businesses from the inside out
By Shawn Welch, Vice President and General Manager of Hi-Cone Worldwide As industries across the world are facing unprecedented uncertainty...
Securing Information Throughout the Supply Chain – Preventing Supplier Vulnerabilities
By Adam Strange, Data Classification Specialist, HelpSystems The financial services sector is experiencing extreme disruption coupled with rapid innovation as...
RegTech 2020: The rise of Open Banking
This month on the RegTech 20:20 podcast, host Alex Ford is joined by industry experts Gavin Littlejohn, Chairman of The...
The case for AI technology adoption in financial back-office roles to improve efficiency
By Tomas Gogar, AI CEO, Rossum In this era, digital transformation isn’t anything new. Nonetheless, it can still cause a...
Gain financial regulation qualification online
Gain financial regulation qualification online Warwick Business School in partnership with the Bank of England are delighted to offer...
COVID-19: Dealing with fraudulent applications for the Bounce Back Loan Scheme
By Ed Lloyd, EVP Global Head of Sales, Encompass The COVID-19 pandemic is still having a devastating impact on businesses...
EU Commission sets out new intellectual property action plan affecting SEPs, patent pooling and EU design protection
By Andrew White, Partner and UK & European patent attorney at intellectual property firm, Mathys & Squire The EU Commission...
InsurTech is helping to drive the digital evolution of the UK motor retail industry
By Alan Inskip, Tempcover CEO & Founder If the last nine months have made anything clear, it is that the...