Strengthening the Financial Services Industry with Cognitive Security

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Fintech, CBN, Fatokun, Diamondbank

 

Is it possible for any organisation to fight cybercrime without the aid of artificial intelligence or machine learning, especially, for those with complex systems like the financial institutions? This article is more or less focused on the financial services industry, especially, the banking sector, for two main reasons. First, I believe that when it comes to technology adoption in Nigeria, the banks are really at the forefront and secondly, I was invited to join some bank executives for a one day exposition themed, “Defense In-depth with cognitive security,” organised by ActivEdge Technologies and IBM, both of which are leaders in the space.

“All over the world, forward thinking organisations are continuously exploring means of improving their security and defense posture in a way that meets the operational data protection and privacy requirements,” says George Agu, CEO, ActivEdge Technologies Limited. The wealth of information under the custody of financial service firms is huge and includes user information, transactional data and data created from security, network and endpoint devices that can help uncover security breaches/attacks. But, how can security teams make sense out of this massive amount of data, so as to be able to recognize security threats as they emerge and provide quick remediation?

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According to IBM, “Cognitive systems shine a light into data that has been dark to organizational defenses until now — uncovering new insights, patterns and security context, never seen before.” From all indications, cognitive security, certainly provides effective tools that will allow the financial service industry in Nigeria to better explore structured and unstructured data, intelligence, security, financial information, analysis and much more, to mitigate security threats. Many IT and other professionals also see it as a technology that can improve the efficiency of security analysts, relieving them from the usual everyday tasks and making them more focused on what is important.

Typically, a bank’s data security or network security analyst has a complex job of finding and stopping advanced threats before they do damage and/or steal valuable assets and can only attend to a little above 10 security incidences in a day, out of about 50 security incidences cases received daily. Incidence Response, (IR), is meant to be handled immediately, no matter the number received per day, but with the above, one can deduce that a number of security threats may remain unattended to. The bank might decide to deploy more workforce to see that the incidence response time is increased, but not without incurring additional cost, coupled with the difficulty of finding the right level of skills. All these issues could be adequately handled and effectively managed, if cognitive systems are deployed in the banks and other larger corporations.

Obviously, the above scenario shows the increased possibilities of vulnerabilities and the need to protect the entire categories of vulnerabilities, as opposed to chasing individual attacks. The financial sector needs to understand the value of intelligence and integration capabilities that leverage cognitive analytics to collect, learn and make sense of massive amounts of real-time data flow and lessons learned from security professionals to prioritize security threats, detect high-risk threats in real-time and provide guidance on remediation.

According to the Deputy Governor, Operations, Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), Nigerian Deposit Money Banks, DMBs, lost N2.19 billion to fraudsters through electronic channels in 2016 fiscal period, recording about 19,531 fraud cases the same year as against 10,743 recorded in 2015. The CBN, in its contribution, appear to be actively involved in promoting a secure and efficient payment system, providing operation and implementation guidelines that can facilitate the ongoing initiatives, as well as sensitising deposits banks.

Deposit banks on the other hand, are on a continuous journey to improve banking services and payment transactions, making them more user friendly and efficient with the use of interactive technology innovations. This, however, has not nipped the cases of electronic fraud in the bud, due to obvious lapses that accompany such technologies. As a matter of fact, for the financial service industries to effectively deal with electronic payment fraud cases caused by security lapses, more creativity is needed to help detect threats faster, understand its scope and apply appropriate remediation in near real-time.

By the nature of what I do, I interact with both the public and private sector and some people often argue that Nigeria is not ripe for a major cyber-attack because, most of our data are largely offline. It is an argument that I find amusing, but the average financial institution offering real time, 24/7, financial services approaches the situation differently, thus, it is quite instructive as George Agu, CEO, ActivEdge Technologies drives home the point that “No technological innovation has proven to be as efficacious, reliable and resilient at fighting security threats and breaches as cognitive security, which uses data mining, machine learning, natural language processing and user behavioural analysis, to smartly block attacks that continue to elude traditional security technologies, such as those exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities. In just a few years, this method has proven to be stronger, adapting quickly to attacks as they change and proactively detecting and preventing, even, the most sophisticated threats.”

Security is paramount for the financial service industry as well as organisations in other sectors of the economy. All sectors house data and critical information that are relevant for all stakeholders involved. We should not be victims of loss of large quantum of money as a result of security vulnerabilities, when there are solutions that can help us stay protected.

CFA is the Founder, www.CFAtech.ng & Co-producer/Presenter,Tech Trends on Channels Television

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