This article was first published in the Winter 2014 issue of OnWindows
Security is the foundation on which financial businesses are built. As a multitude of high-profile news stories have recently shown, a security breach can put millions of customers at risk. And in today’s connected world it will quickly become global news, tarnishing the brand and creating a devastating impact on business. But ensuring security is an increasingly complex task for financial firms. While increased connectivity has brought huge productivity gains to businesses, mobile working and the consumerisation of IT also mean that the IT environment is significantly more complex to manage.
Helping financial firms to stay ahead of the threats is a critical focus, says Dejan Kusalovic, director of marketing at Intel. “Innovation and trust are the legs we stand on,” he says. “We pride ourselves on making sure that the best, most up-to-date solutions run on Intel, and security is central to providing that level of capability. We embed security enhancing capabilities, features and solutions in our platforms, across the compute universe from mobile devices, including wearables, all the way to the most powerful server chips. That’s critical for any business, but more than ever in the financial services industry. We look at transactions end to end and we work to eliminate any weak links in the process.”
User behaviour – especially in terms of passwords – is a key security concern, says Kusalovic. “The chief security officer for a major bank recently told me that they get about ten million hack attempts a month,” he says. “In most cases, security would have been much stronger if users had paid more attention to their own behaviour. But it’s natural for consumers to behave the way they do; on average, people have about 16 passwords to remember. So it’s natural – but not safe – for them to use the same one with a subtle variation, such as adding a number.”
By embedding smart technologies in the actual device, significant progress can be made towards eradicating password-related risk. It’s a principle that’s central to Intel Identity Protection Technology (IPT), an example of Intel’s security solution, which provides a tamper-resistant hardware authentication mechanism that can be detected and used by any IPT-enabled website, providing different ways to validate that a legitimate user is logging in.
“IPT addresses how people actually access their accounts and their devices,” explains Kusalovic. “It generates a unique, one-time password to enable two-factor authentication and secure VPN access. A public key infrastructure certificate is embedded in the chipset to authenticate the user and the server to each other and to encrypt and digitally sign documents. Working in conjunction with these tools, a protected transaction display confirms user presence, verifies transactions and protects information from being viewed by hackers. Simply, it makes it tougher for people to expose themselves.”
On the server side, many financial firms already hold some tools to ensure security: information about customers’ spending habits, and the processing power to analyse it in real time.
“The new Intel processors on the server side are more powerful than ever,” says Kusalovic. “There’s a wealth of customer demographic and spending information available from credit card customers, and this can be used to compare typical behaviours such as spending amounts, locations types of purchase with real-time use data, so that any deviation is flagged up for investigation.
“In the past, this could only be done by data analysis experts using the largest computer systems. Now, organisations can use sophisticated algorithms to process and analyse customer credit card data, and track those indicators effectively and affordably in real time. In addition, we keep investing in deeply embedded hardware features such as Trusted Execution Technology (TXT) that has been in several generations of our Xeon server processors. They can even use a powerful yet cost-effective solution like Intel Mashery API Management to create smart server tools for fraud protection, which can be deployed in the cloud, on premise or in a hybrid environment.”
As cybercrime becomes more advanced, addressing both server-side and client-side security will be key to enabling financial organisations to stay ahead of the threats. Combined with the processing power of today’s computers, solutions such as IPT and TXT are making that possible.
“We’ll continue to develop technology that can be used for authentication and secure transactions,” says Kusalovic. “More capability will be incorporated on the server side to continually improve the algorithms that detect intrusions. Wearables will also provide a way to harness biometrics so you become your own password. In five or ten years’ time, you could be wearing a watch or necklace that checks your vital signs, many of which – such as your heartbeat – are unique to each individual and could be used to authenticate you. The technology could put those signs in context – so if you’re running, for example, it will question whether it makes sense that you would be looking at your bank account at that point. This is true ubiquitous computing that will enable organisations to protect consumers and stay ahead of security threats – it’s a few years ahead now, but it will become a reality.”
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