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Fin companies fear FinTech

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Results from a PwC survey in the financial services (FS) sector has revealed that 83% of respondents from traditional FS firms believe part of their business is at risk of being lost to standalone FinTech companies.

Traditional financial services (FS) firms believe part of their business is at risk of being lost to standalone FinTech companies.

A new PwC survey, which assesses the rise of new technologies in the FS sector and their impact on market players, reveals 83% of respondents in general see this as a risk, rising to a staggering 95% in the case of banks.

The report, ‘Blurred Lines: How FinTech is shaping Financial services’, features the responses of 544 CEOs, Heads of Innovation, CIOs and top management involved in digital and technological transformation across the FS industry in 46 countries. Incumbents believe 23% of their business could be at risk due to further development of FinTech. What’s more, FinTech companies themselves anticipate they could capture 33% of the incumbents’ business.

Banking and payments feel most heat from FinTech

The survey shows the banking and payments industries are feeling the most pressure from FinTech companies.  Respondents from the fund transfer & payments industry anticipate that in the next five years, they could lose up to 28% of their market share to them, while bankers estimate they are likely to lose 24%. This compares to around 22% in the case of asset management & wealth management and 21% in insurance.

Top threats from FinTech

Two-thirds (67%) of FS companies ranked pressure on profit margins as the top FinTech-related threat, followed by loss of market share (59%). One of the key ways in which FinTechs support the margin pressure point through innovation is step function improvements in operating costs. For instance, the movement to cloud-based platforms not only decreases up-front costs, but also reduces ongoing infrastructure costs.

Blockchain untapped and underestimated by FS

Blockchain, a distributed ledger technology, represents the next evolutionary jump in business process optimisation technology. According to PwC, it could result in a radically different competitive future in the FS industry, where current profit pools are disrupted and redistributed towards the owners of new, highly efficient blockchain platforms. Not only could there be huge cost savings but also large gains in transparency. Yet it ranks low on the agendas of participants.

While the majority (56%) recognise its importance, 57% say they are unsure or unlikely to respond to this trend.

“When faced with disruptive technologies, the world’s leading companies succeed by rapidly weaving them into their DNA, as part of their ‘business as usual’ process,” says Haskell Garfinkell, US FinTech co-leader, PwC.

“Blockchain and disruptive ledger technologies offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for financial services companies to transform the way they do business. In our view, the lack of understanding of blockchain technology and its potential for disruption poses significant risks to existing business models and the firms that do not take the time to understand the impact will underestimate the opportunities and threats that blockchain can provide.”

To put this into perspective, PwC’s Global Blockchain team has identified over 700 companies entering this space, 150 of whom it says are ‘ones to watch’ and 25 of which it expects will likely emerge as leaders.

Challenges for FinTech companies and incumbents

PwC’s survey shows the most widespread form of collaboration with FinTech companies is joint partnership (32%), which, says PwC, is indicative FS firms are not ready to go all in and invest fully in FinTech.

Asked what challenges they face in dealing with FinTech companies, 53% of incumbents cited IT security, regulatory uncertainty (49%) and differences in business models (40%).

In the case of FinTech companies, differences in management and culture (54%), operational processes (47%) and regulatory uncertainty (43%) were deemed the top three challenges when dealing with traditional FS firms.

Steve Davies, EMEA FinTech Leader at PwC comments:

“FinTech is changing the FS industry from the outside. PwC estimates within the next 3-5 years, cumulative investment in FinTech globally could well exceed $150bn, and financial institutions and tech companies are a stepping over one another for a chance to get into the game. As the lines between traditional finance, technology firms and telecom companies are blurring, many innovative solutions are emerging and there is clearly no straightforward solution to navigate this FinTech world.”

Paul Mitchell, Fin Tech Leader, PwC South Africa, says:

“South African financial services players, old and new, are uniquely positioned in a sophisticated industry on a high growth continent. The opportunities for innovative solutions for a young and adaptable population is huge, and the impact of FinTech in Africa could well overtake what we are seeing in the US and Europe.”

“Customers’ behaviour, and their expectations around how companies interact with them, is changing quickly. The FinTech industry is driving these changes in financial services, and the established businesses in the industry who recognise this are having to learn fast. This is leading to a reassessment of many elements of the customer experience and engagement process that will play out over the next few years.”

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Which IoT horse should you back?

The emerging IoT is evolving at a rapid pace with more companies entering the market. The development of new product and communication systems is likely to continue to grow over the next few years, after which we could begin to see a few dominant players emerge, says DARREN OXLEE, CTOf of Utility Systems.

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But in the interim, many companies face a dilemma because, in such a new industry, there are so many unknowns about its trajectory. With the variety of options available (particularly regarding the medium of communication), there’s the a question of which horse to back.

Many players also haven’t fully come to grips with the commercial models in IoT (specifically, how much it costs to run these systems).

Which communication protocol should you consider for your IoT application? Depends on what you’re looking for. Here’s a summary of the main low-power, wide area network (LPWAN) communications options that are currently available, along with their applicability:

SIGFOX 

SigFox has what is arguably the most traction in the LPWAN space, thanks to its successful marketing campaigns in Europe. It also has strong support from vendors including Texas Instruments, Silicon Labs, and Axom.

It’s a relatively simple technology, ultra-narrowband (100 Hz), and sends very small data (12 bytes) very slowly (300 bps). So it’s perfect for applications where systems need to send small, infrequent bursts of data. Its lack of downlink capabilities, however, could make it unsuitable for applications that require two-way communication.

LORA 

LoRaWAN is a standard governed by the LoRa Alliance. It’s not open because the underlying chipset is only available through Semtech – though this should change in future.

Its functionality is like SigFox: it’s primarily intended for uplink-only applications with multiple nodes, although downlink messages are possible. But unlike SigFox, LoRa uses multiple frequency channels and data rates with coded messages. These are less likely to interfere with one another, increasing the concentrator capacity.

RPMA 

Ingenu Technology Solutions has developed a proprietary technology called Random Phase Multiple Access (RPMA) in the 2.4 GHz band. Due to its architecture, it’s said to have a superior uplink and downlink capacity compared to other models.

It also claims to have better doppler, scheduling, and interference characteristics, as well as a better link budget of 177 dB compared to LoRa’s 157 dB and SigFox’s 149 dB. Plus, it operates in the 2.4 GHz spectrum, which is globally available for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so there are no regional architecture changes needed – unlike SigFox and LoRa.

LTE-M 

LTE-M (LTE Cat-M1) is a cellular technology that has gained traction in the United States and is specifically designed for IoT or machine‑to‑machine (M2M) communications.

It’s a low‑power wide‑area (LPWA) interface that connects IoT and M2M devices with medium data rate requirements (375 kb/s upload and download speeds in half duplex mode). It also enables longer battery lifecycles and greater in‑building range compared to standard cellular technologies like 2G, 3G, or LTE Cat 1.

Key features include:

·       Voice functionality via VoLTE

·       Full mobility and in‑vehicle hand‑over

·       Low power consumption

·       Extended in‑building range

NB-IOT 

Narrowband IoT (NB‑IoT or LTE Cat NB1) is part of the same 3GPP Release 13 standard3 that defined LTE Cat M1 – both are licensed as LPWAN technologies that work virtually anywhere. NB-IoT connects devices simply and efficiently on already established mobile networks and handles small amounts of infrequent two‑way data securely and reliably.

NB‑IoT is well suited for applications like gas and water meters through regular and small data transmissions, as network coverage is a key issue in smart metering rollouts. Meters also tend to be in difficult locations like cellars, deep underground, or in remote areas. NB‑IoT has excellent coverage and penetration to address this.

MY FORECAST

The LPWAN technology stack is fluid, so I foresee it evolving more over the coming years. During this time, I suspect that we’ll see:

1.     Different markets adopting different technologies based on factors like dominant technology players and local regulations

2.     The technologies diverging for a period and then converging with a few key players, which I think will be SigFox, LoRa, and the two LTE-based technologies

3.     A significant technological shift in 3-5 years, which will disrupt this space again

So, which horse should you back?

I don’t believe it’s prudent to pick a single technology now; lock-in could cause serious restrictions in the long-term. A modular, agile approach to implementing the correct communications mechanism for your requirements carries less risk.

The commercial model is also hugely important. The cellular and telecommunications companies will understandably want to maximise their returns and you’ll want to position yourself to share an equitable part of the revenue.

So: do your homework. And good luck!

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Ms Office hack attacks up 4X

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Exploits, software that takes advantage of a bug or vulnerability, for Microsoft Office in-the-wild hit the list of cyber headaches in Q1 2018. Overall, the number of users attacked with malicious Office documents rose more than four times compared with Q1 2017. In just three months, its share of exploits used in attacks grew to almost 50% – this is double the average share of exploits for Microsoft Office across 2017. These are the main findings from Kaspersky Lab’s Q1 IT threat evolution report.

Attacks based on exploits are considered to be very powerful, as they do not require any additional interactions with the user and can deliver their dangerous code discreetly. They are therefore widely used; both by cybercriminals looking for profit and by more sophisticated nation-backed state actors for their malicious purposes.

The first quarter of 2018 experienced a massive inflow of these exploits, targeting popular Microsoft Office software. According to Kaspersky Lab experts, this is likely to be the peak of a longer trend, as at least ten in-the-wild exploits for Microsoft Office software were identified in 2017-2018 – compared to two zero-day exploits for Adobe Flash player used in-the-wild during the same time period.

The share of the latter in the distribution of exploits used in attacks is decreasing as expected (accounting for slightly less than 3% in the first quarter) – Adobe and Microsoft have put a lot of effort into making it difficult to exploit Flash Player.

After cybercriminals find out about a vulnerability, they prepare a ready-to-go exploit. They then frequently use spear-phishing as the infection vector, compromising users and companies through emails with malicious attachments. Worse still, such spear-phishing attack vectors are usually discreet and very actively used in sophisticated targeted attacks – there were many examples of this in the last six months alone.

For instance, in late 2017, Kaspersky Lab’s advanced exploit prevention systems identified a new Adobe Flash zero-day exploit used in-the-wild against our customers. The exploit was delivered through a Microsoft Office document and the final payload was the latest version of FinSpy malware. Analysis of the payload enabled researchers to confidently link this attack to a sophisticated actor known as ‘BlackOasis’. The same month, Kaspersky Lab’s experts published a detailed analysis of СVE-2017-11826, a critical zero-day vulnerability used to launch targeted attacks in all versions of Microsoft Office. The exploit for this vulnerability is an RTF document containing a DOCX document that exploits СVE-2017-11826 in the Office Open XML parser. Finally, just a couple of days ago, information on Internet Explorer zero day CVE-2018-8174 was published. This vulnerability was also used in targeted attacks.

“The threat landscape in the first quarter again shows us that a lack of attention to patch management is one of the most significant cyber-dangers. While vendors usually issue patches for the vulnerabilities, users often can’t update their products in time, which results in waves of discreet and highly effective attacks once the vulnerabilities have been exposed to the broad cybercriminal community,” notes Alexander Liskin, security expert at Kaspersky Lab.

Other online threat statistics from the Q1, 2018 report include:

  • Kaspersky Lab solutions detected and repelled 796,806,112 malicious attacks from online resources located in 194 countries around the world.
  • 282,807,433 unique URLs were recognised as malicious by web antivirus components.
  • Attempted infections by malware that aims to steal money via online access to bank accounts were registered on 204,448 user computers.
  • Kaspersky Lab’s file antivirus detected a total of 187,597,494 unique malicious and potentially unwanted objects.
  • Kaspersky Lab mobile security products also detected:
    • 1,322,578 malicious installation packages.
    • 18,912 mobile banking Trojans (installation packages).

To reduce the risk of infection, users are advised to:

  • Keep the software installed on your PC up to date, and enable the auto-update feature if it is available.
  • Wherever possible, choose a software vendor that demonstrates a responsible approach to a vulnerability problem. Check if the software vendor has its own bug bounty program.

·         Use robust security solutions , which have special features to protect against exploits, such as Automatic Exploit Prevention.

·         Regularly run a system scan to check for possible infections and make sure you keep all software up to date.

  • Businesses should use a security solution that provides vulnerability, patch management and exploit prevention components, such as Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business. The patch management feature automatically eliminates vulnerabilities and proactively patches them. The exploit prevention component monitors suspicious actions of applications and blocks malicious files executions.
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