Whilst 2021 might now be firmly in the rearview, it still offers plenty of lessons that we can all learn from. Last year was momentous for several sectors, but few witnessed the same levels of change experienced in the fields of online fraud and cybersecurity. We recently caught up with some experts in these areas to find out what they considered to be their standout moments and biggest takeaways from the past twelve months.
Tamas Kadar, Co-Founder & CEO of SEON with Expertise in Fraud Prevention and Crypto.
There have been a lot of big moments in fintech this year, but perhaps none bigger than Mark Zuckerberg revealing his company’s plans to deliver a metaverse in the coming years. It’s still too early to tell whether he’s correct in his predictions about the future, but there’s clearly now ample energy, resources and brainpower going into making it a reality.
The unveiling of the metaverse poses stark questions for those involved in cybersecurity, many of which are also pertinent to the challenges we face today. For one, how do we get people to authenticate themselves in an environment that’s increasingly based online? That’s been a big question being asked this year, particularly with many of us still working from home.
During 2021, I’ve also been watching the rise of social engineering and account takeover attacks. It’s scary how easy it has become to pull off these types of attacks and people need to ensure they’re taking a lot of care to protect themselves against them. Unfortunately, I don’t think that has necessarily been the case this year.
For businesses, this year has underlined the financial need to enact effective cybersecurity and fraud prevention protocols within online operations. Whether you’re a business that stores information in the cloud, or an ecommerce retailer selling directly to customers, cybercriminals are becoming more efficient in wielding threats, which ultimately eat into your bottom line.
Marcel van Oost, Noted Fintech Research, Commentator and Angel Investor.
I’ve been keeping a close eye on the rise of business banking in 2021. On the whole, fintech has performed well during the past twelve months, but this particular marker segment has experienced a particularly dramatic rise. It was perhaps best encapsulated in the recent fundraise of €400m by Qonto, but I think others will soon follow suit.
I think 2021 was the year that fintech truly entered the mainstream. We’ve seen record breaking levels of investment into the sector and much greater adoption rates amongst everyday users. According to Fortune Magazine, nearly nine in 10 Americans now use some kind of fintech app to manage their financial lives, with comparable figures in Europe too.
We’ve also seen similar growth in crypto, which has become far more popular in the past 12 months. During 2021, we witnessed more and more legacy financial institutions and venture capital funds enter the space. That form of investment is always a good sign for maintained growth and probably sets the sector up for even further gains in 2022.
Jimmy Fong, CCO at SEON and a Young Veteran in the Fraud Detection Space.
The last year has been massive for fintech, but I don’t expect to see the sector’s growth slowdown in 2022. Over the past twelve months, we’ve seen so many sectors benefit from integrating more fintech solutions into their operations. Likewise, we’re seeing fewer industries reliant on tech solutions they’re ‘locked’ into, which has helped to create more flexibility within sectors.
Over the past year, we’ve seen far fewer industries maintain this inflexible approach to technologies and a greater shift towards portable solutions. This is perhaps best exemplified in the continued growth of next-generation platforms like Shopify, which are allowing much easier inter-operability to different stacks and thriving as a result.
From a fraud prevention perspective, we’re beginning to see a similar trend emerge with more providers, such as us, able to offer simple microservices that are inherently flexible, adaptable and scalable across a wide range of industries. We’re also seeing more of these solutions benefitting from a genuine AI brain at the heart of their functionality, which is really exciting.
Lastly, we’ve also seen a growth in industry collaboration relating to fraud in 2021. I think companies in the sector have started to see how important it is to share insights with one another and to develop closer communication in relation to new and emerging threats. In doing so, the sector is now more like the fraudsters themselves, who always share tips with each other.
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Professor Markos Zachariadis, Professor in FinTech at Alliance Manchester Business School & Council Member at the World Economic Forum.
It’s hard to start this year review without acknowledging the immense impact of COVID-19 on the economy. The pandemic has changed how many of us live our lives but has also created opportunities for fintech and technology providers to plug new gaps. We’ve written about this extensively at the World Economic Forum, but it bears repeating here.
Whilst six months ago it may have seemed like the most disruptive aspects of the pandemic were over, COVID crisis and its risks seem to persist making it unlikely we’ll see a return to ‘normal’ anytime soon.
As people and businesses increasingly turn to digital means of consuming products and services, they are also becoming more vulnerable to cyber-attacks and online fraud.More than ever, businesses and consumers need access to fraud prevention tools, processes and knowledge. To battle such threats, FinTech innovations are constantly emerging, but such offerings need to be priced and implemented carefully making sure they don’t cost more than the fraud they are meant to fight.
In a similar vein, I think the last year has also been defined by increasing tensions between tech innovators and regulators. We’re always likely to see innovation outpace regulation, but the rate at which this has happened in the fintech sector is notable. That’s probably why we’ve seen so many FinTech businesses look to self-regulate in the past year, to stay on top of this issue.”
Bence Jendruszak, Co-Founder & COO of SEON.
I think 2021 was a big year in terms of people becoming more aware about the risks they face online. Unfortunately, I think it’s taken some pretty damaging and unnecessary cyber incidents to get us to this point, but ultimately the message does seem to be finally starting to stick in people’s minds and in their online behaviors.
We’ve started to see the democratization of online fraud prevention solutions, which are now more affordable and accessible than ever before. This is very timely, especially as more of us are now working from home and more at risk to cybercrime and fraud. With that said, the process still needs accelerating, which is something SEON aims to do.
It’s perhaps a little left field, but I’ve been keeping my eye on the rise of facial recognition systems, which are powered by AI. Depending on your view, this technology either represents a huge advancement in modern security systems, which will greatly improve our ability to prevent terror incidents, or the first step towards total state autocracy.
I’m somewhere in between, but mostly interested in the potential fraud issues that could feature alongside further adoption of these systems. To operate, many of these solutions rely on vast databases that hold highly sensitive and personal information. In the past year, we’ve seen many of these servers be infiltrated by hackers, which should cause some alarm.
Erica Stanford, Author of Crypto Wars & Founder of the Crypto Curry Club.
What’s really stood out to me this year in fintech has been the number of big court cases featuring cryptocurrencies. Authorities are becoming more confident in pursuing and prosecuting crypto scams, which provides an important deterrent to potential criminals. With that said, we’re still seeing a ridiculous number of hacks affecting the market, particularly against crypto exchanges.
It’s now totally viable for crypto exchanges to implement institutional grade security within their cyber defences, but some platforms seem to be slow on the uptake. Not all exchanges are going to have the resources, or desire to achieve this level of security, but it’s reassuring that some have invested in it during the course of 2021.
The need to redouble defence protocols is set against a backdrop of rising fraud, especially online. Over the past year, we’ve seen hacks and scams become increasingly easy to pull off and this has elevated the threat level across the whole industry. In 2021, I’ve been particularly concerned about the rise of ‘ransomware as a service’ style threats, which are growing exponentially on the dark web.
We’re also seeing trends from further afield bleed over into the space. I’ve been really interested in the rise of influencer-led crypto scams, where social media stars knowingly, or unknowingly promote worthless digital currencies to their massive audiences. We’re also beginning to see this trend on TikTok, which is even harder to regulate.