PA Consulting's Michael Christodoulides, an IoT expert, discusses the acceleration of the rise of digital payments due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the cyber security risks attached to it.
One of the many effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has been an acceleration of the rise of digital payments and the demise of cash, driven by social distancing measures and fears that the virus could linger for weeks on currency notes and coins. In Europe, Germans are increasingly ditching cash for hygiene reasons, according to Initiative Deutsche Zahlungssysteme, a payment industry organisation. In the US, more than 50 per cent of consumers say they want to stop using cash in favour of debit cards, according to data from California-based Travis Credit Union. This shift, which was already well under way before the pandemic struck, has deepened concerns about potential cyber security risks for consumers and businesses, as well as new kinds of fraud.
The risks attached to digital payments include hackers and scammers stealing bank account details, social security numbers and other personal information. Although data theft at the point of transaction is difficult, cyber criminals may instead look to access databases that contain credit- or debit-card information. Online scammers have also altered their tactics during the pandemic — including instances of fraudulent online messages offering Covid-19 medical packages and relief payments. These scams ask individuals to verify their personal information such as passwords, accounts and other payment information, in order to steal money. More than 900,000 spam messages, 700 malware attacks and 48,000 malicious domains were discovered in the first four months of 2020, according to an Interpol report — all mentioning coronavirus.
"The Internet of Things — everyday objects connected to the web whose numbers are estimated to grow from 22bn in 2018 to 50bn by 2030 — also creates opportunities for cyber thieves", says Michael.
He adds that some of these devices not only contain personal data but are also capable of online transactions: “The continued growth in contactless purchases, accelerated by health protection measures due to Covid-19, increases the onus on IoT vendors to engage with software developers and technologists to mitigate risk.”