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SA Reserve Bank gets behind payment innovation

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The South African Reserve Bank has thrown its weight behind local payment industry innovation and development, as the industry braces for a “time of unprecedented change”.

Speaking at the 2016 Payments Association of South Africa (PASA) International Conference, Deputy Governor of The South African Reserve Bank (SARB), Mr. Francois Groepe, said that the industry is entering a new phase in the South African payment and financial regulatory environment, in a time of significant changes to the international regulatory architecture and framework.

The SARB, who has processed payments in the region of R100 trillion in 2016 – three times the GDP of the country – announced that South Africa will have new, far-reaching and overarching, financial sector legislation by the end of 2016. “From a payment system perspective, it will include the introduction of new and more comprehensive regulations as well as expanded oversight and supervision by various regulators,” said Mr. Groepe.

The Deputy Governor declared that the national payment infrastructure is critical and systemically important given the important role it plays within our financial system and the implications of any potential failure for financial stability.

Addressing traditional Financial and Fintech industry leaders, Mr. Groepe stressed the need for cohesion in an effort to bolster an industry under attack from fraudsters. “SARB will interact with all participants in this environment to ensure that the necessary attention and priority is given. Together, we also aim to improve the levels of innovation as well as the safety and soundness of the national payment system and, going forward, also that of all systemically important financial market infrastructures.”

Payment stakeholders welcomed the boost from the country’s top regulator, echoing the need for holistic collaboration and the stimulation of innovation that keeps the customer safe, so that they can benefit from the convenience of technological advancements.

Leading payments provider, PayU, hailed the announcement, saying that the industry in SA is laden with exciting talent pushing for opportunities. Johan Dekker, Head of payments in Africa at PayU EMEA, said, “This is good news for the industry. We see growth in our European and other African markets driven primarily through innovation, facilitated by unity between the industry and regulators.”

The announcement by the SARB coincides with a number of technological innovations that are poised to affect South Africans in the coming months. These have been in operation in various stages in other markets and include biometric authentication and tokenisation.

Samsung Pay’s meteoric growth to 500 million global users in just six months shows the power of paying simply by being authenticated through your unique characteristics.

On Tuesday, PASA announced a new standardised specification to facilitate biometric authentication on payment cards. Working in partnership with Mastercard and Visa, this technology framework is designed to ensure open interoperable solutions in South Africa. The specification enables a range of biometric solutions, from fingerprint verification to palm, voice, iris, or facial biometrics.

Tokenisation – which is the process of replacing sensitive account number data with a unique string of numbers that cannot be used to make transactions – has already hit its straps as the emerging data security standard. Although, like most transformative technologies, it is widely expected to morph into further disruption as it evolves.

“Much of the focus in the industry at the moment is essentially about taking the friction out of the purchase, while keeping it secure, and achieving this as quickly as possible. However, with fast-changing technology and the inevitably more demanding customer, it is important that all checks are in place,” says Johan Dekker.

While the Fintech and Banking industry is providing many exciting opportunities, it should be balanced by efficiency, safety and financial stability considerations. 

Cautioning against over-reliance on the regulator, Mr. Groepe added, ”It is not the role of regulators to hamper innovation, but the SARB is jointly responsible for financial stability, which includes aspects such as cybersecurity, infrastructures, and a safe and efficient financial system. We therefore need to strive towards achieving a healthy balance when we respond to these developments.”

What is evident, though, is the central bank’s commitment. “Executives should no longer ignore the importance of the national payment system and its infrastructure, or the risks and threats (e.g. that of cybersecurity) in this environment. Payment systems and related matters need to be elevated from the back office to the boardroom. This has happened at the SARB and other central banks,” says Mr. Groepe.

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Password managers don’t protect you from hackers

Using a password manager to protect yourself online? Research reveals serious weaknesses…

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Top password manager products have fundamental flaws that expose the data they are designed to protect, rendering them no more secure than saving passwords in a text file, according to a new study by researchers at Independent Security Evaluators (ISE).

“100 percent of the products that ISE analyzed failed to provide the security to safeguard a user’s passwords as advertised,” says ISE CEO Stephen Bono. “Although password managers provide some utility for storing login/passwords and limit password reuse, these applications are a vulnerable target for the mass collection of this data through malicious hacking campaigns.”

In the new report titled “Under the Hood of Secrets Management,” ISE researchers revealed serious weaknesses with top password managers: 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass and LastPass.  ISE examined the underlying functionality of these products on Windows 10 to understand how users’ secrets are stored even when the password manager is locked. More than 60 million individuals 93,000 businesses worldwide rely on password managers. Click here for a copy of the report.

Password managers are marketed as a solution to eliminate the security risks of storing passwords or secrets for applications and browsers in plain text documents. Having previously examined these and other password managers, ISE researchers expected an improved level of security standards preventing malicious credential extraction. Instead ISE found just the opposite. 

Click here to read the findings from the report.

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MWC: Next generation of inflight connectivity to be unveiled

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Next week at Mobile World Congress, the Seamless Air Alliance will reveal progress on its mission towards enabling the next generation of inflight connectivity. This follows a significant start for the Alliance, which has seen membership increase five-fold since the first meeting in June of last year. The Alliance has a new research laboratory setup and continues progress through its three working groups, writing specifications for the technology, requirements, and operations.

These developments represent a huge leap towards the goal of making connectivity as easy and enjoyable in the skies as it is on the ground. Appearing as part of the Airbus stand (Hall 6, stand 6G34), the Seamless Air Alliance will reveal specification topics that have been completed and published to its membership.

“The passenger experience with inflight connectivity remains one of the great technology challenges. From Day One we have been determined to deliver on our mission to bring industries and technologies together to make the inflight internet experience simple to access and a delight to use,” said the Alliance’s Chief Executive Officer, Jack Mandala.

“I have been tremendously encouraged by the enthusiastic and committed response we have seen and the widening areas of expertise we can call upon as more and more companies and organisations continue to join us,” he added.

Announced during MWC 2018, the Seamless Air Alliance has since grown to twenty-three membercompanies with more than one-hundred key personnel from across the membership participating in its three working groups, with numbers continuing to increase.

The Seamless Air Alliance was created by founding members Airbus, Airtel, Delta Air Lines, OneWeb and Sprint, and quickly joined by Air France KLM, Aeromexico, and GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes and global technology leaders including Astronics, Collins Aerospace, Comtech, Cyient, iDirect, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Latecoere, Nokia, and Panasonic. 

Today, the Alliance is pleased to announce five additional new members: Adaptive Channel, Etihad Airways, GlobalReach Technology, Safran, and SITAONAIR.

“We are extremely pleased to have these companies join and be a part of the companies driving the next generation of connectivity.” said Mr Mandala.

The Seamless Air Alliance will enable travelers boarding any flight, on any airline, anywhere in the world, to use their own devices to automatically connect to the Internet with no complicated login process nor paywall to scramble over.

The Alliance is also announcing the release of a new research study on the economic benefit of standardization on the inflight connectivity market at Mobile World Congress. This report is available for download at https://www.seamlessalliance.com/publications/

The Alliance is moving rapidly towards an expected demonstration of the technology later in 2019 and anticipates massive interest in Barcelona from the whole communications eco-system.

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