7 Easy ways to protect your cashless economy from the hackers

A couple of days back in cyclone affected Chennai, people were struggling to get cash for their basic needs and I was one among them. It was quite interesting to see IT professionals, students, working class, labors, and daily wagers were standing in a long queue to withdraw their cash from ATMs and few lucky folks purchased daily groceries using credit/debit cards. This made me confound to see digital transactions has become prominent among people. At the same time, few questions aroused in my mind :
  • Is there are security measures to be taken for the digital transactions? 
  • How cyber-threats affects the digital transaction?
  • Are we ready to travel the digital transactions world?
The digital transaction has minimized paper works. But at the same time, every digital transaction needs to be alert for new threats. Though cash is considered as a king, few countries have toppled its throne and verges upon the cashless economy. According to totalpayments.org, the top 5 countries with a cashless economy are:
  1. Sweden where the number of bank robberies plunged from 110 in 2008 to 16 in 2011.
  2. Somaliland where the electronic banking system is more efficient and convenient than many far more developed countries in the world.
  3. Kenya where M-Pesa is being widely used for many things from receiving salaries, to paying bills and school fees, slowly making cash obsolete.
  4. Canada a world leader in plastic payment, where payment by credit, debit, and bank cards is almost 70 percent compared to a world average of 40 percent.
  5. South Korea the leading Asian nation in the Economist Intelligence Unit's E-Payments Adoption Ranking.
Digital transactions which seem to be more transparent, scalable and accountable can be carried through smart cards, net accounts, net wallets, mobile accounts.
Meanwhile, the heavy debate revolves around the difficulties in implementing digital transaction for a larger economy like India especially the technical challenges. It is completely carried by the third-party, subjected to external regulations. As digital transactions are accessible by legitimate parties like Officials, they are also accessible by hackers as the transaction is moving into a virtual sphere and the risk of hacking rises.
Few possible cyber-attacks in cashless transactions are:
  • Hacking an account: The hackers may illegally gain access into person computer, compromising customer credentials and can use it in the account holder’s name. 
  • Identity theft: Fraudster can illegally obtain and utilize a person PII to obtain financial gain.
  • Phishing and Spoofing: Attacker can use the malicious code, to obtain the PIN details, later they can use this for financial gain.
First generation cyber-attacks with a virus, followed by the Denial of service attack rising to botnets and the third generation malware that is more platform-focused are targeting all dimensions access, data theft, and destruction. The two major challenges we are facing implementing digital transaction are Lack of Infrastructure and Cybersecurity threats.

7 Cyber security measures for the digital transaction:

  1. Implementing two-factor authentication in net banking/online transactions by using OTPs, SSL/128 bit encryption as security measure
  2.  ATM has to be provided with advanced anti-skimming technology, 24/7 surveillance for all banking ATMs
  3. The Banking systems have to be compliance with the regulation according to the reputed standards and they need to take effective measures in addressing DDoS and malware.
  4. We should never reply to e-mails, SMS that request for our PII (Personally Identifiable Information).
  5. Regularly monitoring our bank accounts, bills will avoid hacking thefts.
  6. PIN details have to be updated regularly, never be shared with anyone.
  7. The online transaction firms must ensure and enable compliant to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) 2.0 standard.
Finally, we need to educate ourselves about the various risks and the measures to mitigate the likelihood of any mishappenings in digital transactions. Let’s all hope the migration to the cashless economy is a milestone for our economic growth.
Authored By - Rathnakumar Arumugam
TCS Enterprise Security and Risk Management
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