When was the last time you went to your bank?
If it feels like you’re relying on your brick-and-mortar, city corner bank less and less these days, and turning to banking apps and mobile payment systems more and more, you’re not alone.
Financial Technology, or FinTech for short, is one industry that’s set to change the world. Today, thanks to this industry that was worth more than $20 billion in 2016, people can get loans, funding, transfers, quotes and financial advice with the click of a button.
FinTech finds a home in companies diverse as fledgling startups to traditional banks who’s leaders understand that to remain relevant in today’s market, they’ll need to channel the power of tech. The one thing they all have in common is that somewhere along the way, they leverage technology to deliver better, more innovative financial services to their customers/users.
Security – A Mere Afterthought in the FinTech Industry
There’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to this relatively new frontier, but this darling of the tech world has one tiny problem. The problem is that typically, these platforms are just not designed with security in mind. This means that whatever security measures do exist are usually tacked-on afterthoughts – or don’t exist at all.
We all know that if there are two things attackers are after, they are your money and your data. This makes the potential risks in FinTech all the more frightening. And very often, developers rush to deliver their products to the market before some other company has the chance to come out with something similar. In their rush to get their product “out there”, the first thing to fall by the wayside is making sure the proper security precautions are in place. Sure, it’s the same story when it comes to apps that help your frying pan cook your scrambled eggs to a state of spongy perfection, but when it comes to something that has access to your finances, clearly the stakes are higher.
Let’s look at some of the most pressing security concerns to keep in mind when it comes to adopting this new frontier:
Easy to Access: The goal of most FinTech platforms is to facilitate transactions, which almost inherently means that they are easy to access. And since FinTech platforms generally collect lots of data to deliver their services in a fast and customized way, all this information combined can create a very thorough picture of well, you – And this snapshot can be accessed with relative ease by hackers.
Apps Have a Whole lot of Access: These potentially vulnerable apps not only have all our personal information stored on them, such as dates of birth and social security numbers, they also can provide access straight to our bank accounts.
Adding to the Attack Surface: The attack surface is conceptually the total amount of attack vectors upon which hackers can hit your devices. By doing all your banking online, you’re expanding your attack surface and giving hackers more room to hit you.
Lack of Regulations: Brick-and-mortar banking is meticulously ruled by government-imposed regulations which ensure that banks adhere to strict guidelines that help uphold the stability of the banking industry. Regulations help maintain banking confidentiality, foster transparency between banks and customer and prevent misuse of bank funds – and are still in their infant stages in FinTech. That gulf in between regulations and emerging tech is rife for exploitation by attackers looking to manipulate the system.
Bringing Banking to the “Unbanked”: People in previously unbanked areas such as Africa, parts of Latin America and Asia now have access to banking because of FinTech innovation. But despite the obvious benefits for developing nations, many of these people have very little digital literacy. FinTech is helping bring hackers to people who know nothing about protecting their data.
Just Say “No” to FinTech?
So does this mean you should still trek down to your bank every time you need to transfer some cash? That you’re doomed to never set up your own GoFundMe campaign to help move that dream vacation in Switzerland along?
The industry is still in developmental stages and as time goes on, security will have to become a more elemental part of the FinTech conversation, just as it has in other areas of emerging tech.
Meanwhile, it would be a shame to miss out on the convenience it can deliver so here are some tips to stay secure while FinTech-ing.
- Stay current with all software updates and make sure you’re always using the most updated version of any platform you’re using.
- Use secure and unique passwords for each and every banking app.
- Enable multi-factor authentication wherever possible.
- When it comes to security questions, never use easy-to-guess or true answers. For example, if the question is “What was the name of your first pet?”, don’t use your dog’s actual name; Instead, use something else like “French Fries” (unless your dog’s name was French Fries, of course).
FinTech is one trend that’s not going to vanish in a month a la Pokémon Go. It’s in your best interest to understand what’s at stake and use it smartly.