Mastercard leans on AI to fend off cyber attacks, breaches

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Robert Brine, director of cyber & intelligence solutions at Mastercard Southern Africa.
Robert Brine, director of cyber & intelligence solutions at Mastercard Southern Africa.

Global bank card payment transaction processor Mastercard is increasingly leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to fend off cyber attacks, hacks and breaches to keep the digital ecosystem safe.

In an interview with ITWeb, Robert Brine, director of cyber and intelligence solutions at Mastercard Southern Africa, said AI technology is now protecting consumers, merchants and banks, and helped the company save clients up to $20 billion that could have been lost to fraud last year alone.

According to Brine, the COVID-19 pandemic has fast-tracked digitalisation at an unexpected rate, creating an unstable environment with an excess of challenges to overcome and opportunities to exploit.

Consequently, he cautions that companies moving their business models to digital to improve online servicing must cope with growing customer needs and be prepared for more sophisticated attacks.

The payments industry has had the challenge of protecting consumers and businesses against the explosion in cyber attacks and fraud.

Overall, global fraud rates have hit a near-20-year high, according to the latest PwC figures, with 47% of companies reported to have experienced fraud over the past two years.

Against this backdrop, Brine says, technology – AI in particular – now has an even bigger role to play in helping organisations and countries to adapt to the changing threat landscape.

“Mastercard is focused on securing the entire digital ecosystem, recognising that our cyber security is only as strong as the weakest link in our network of connections.

“We align security with the consumer experience. This is crucial – no trade-off between security and convenience. Increasingly, our security is silent, invisible and part of what we call a frictionless consumer experience,” says Brine.

“We have developed a number of cutting-edge AI-powered tools to help us stay ahead of fraudsters and protect the digital ecosystem.”

Brine says Mastercard is remoulding fraud detection through connected intelligence.

He says connected intelligence brings together Mastercard’s capabilities in AI, biometrics and fraud resolution to assess transactions and interactions in the background to make sure the consumer experience is seamless.

“Connected intelligence is a strategy that relies on multi-layered security linked through thousands of data-based decision points that mitigate fraud at every step throughout the customer journey.”

Brine tells ITWeb that while organisations of all sizes are vulnerable, small companies have become prime targets for cyber attacks.

He explains: “Small businesses are doorways for bigger rewards. Small companies are now becoming targets for cyber attacks because cyber criminals assume they do not have the correct defences against cyber crime, if not none at all.

“In their connectedness to the supply chain and through their professional interactions with larger organisations, many small businesses may be the channel to a linkage of sensitive data, such as contracting services, accounting, legal, conveyancers and other firms.”

According to Brine, these organisations are guardians of sensitive data, extending from client data to private passwords, systems admission codes and valued monetary data – which cyber criminals are after.

“To achieve admission to larger, higher-revenue-generating companies, cyber criminals usually try to hack into smaller organisations’ systems, making them a weak point.”

Furthermore, Brine says, 58% of cyber crime targets small business and the rise in cyber crime targeting SMEs is aided by expectations that many small businesses don’t have dedicated IT departments and may be reducing IT security budgets, while also being unaware of their exposure in terms of remote working protocols and insecure network connections.

“With COVID-19 creating a very different commercial environment, criminal elements are taking advantage of thinly spread teams focused on salvaging business revenues and effecting emergency planning, while security takes a backseat.”

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