We are on the threshold of a massive digital revolution. As ubiquitous connectivity, artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing and next-generation approaches to transaction management revolutionize the digital world, the exponential growth of smartphones is putting mobile apps at the center of our daily lives.
The government is banking on digital as a driver of growth and has announced a number of initiatives in the Union Budget 2022, including the introduction of digital currencies and 75 Digital Banking Units (DBUs) by planned commercial banks. This is facilitated by a number of government-backed initiatives, including the nationwide fiber optic network under BharatNet, to provide high connectivity in the most remote corners of the country. Regulatory pragmatism, enterprising fintechs & start-ups and the willingness of the Indian consumer to embrace digitalization are driving digitalization in India to new heights.
It is important to note here that India’s goal of reaching the $1 trillion digital economy needs to be carefully nurtured, on a strong foundation of trust, confidence and cybersecurity. It is a well-known fact that the digital has become the new playground for criminal activity. In the first three months of 2022 alone, India experienced 18 million cyber attacks and threats, with an average of 200,000 attacks per day.
The digital tracks that India is progressing on have at their core the penetration of mobile phones and the Unified Payment Interface (UPI) for real-time peer-to-peer and merchant payments with few touches on the mobile device. However, what adds a layer of complexity here is that many Indians are having their first digital encounters with smartphones and are little aware of the risks and cyberattacks that mobile apps can also face. Market reports show that India is among the countries with the highest number. of malware attacks on mobile phones and that incidents of security breaches are on the rise as Indians embrace mobile payments. The latest is a new mobile banking Trojan, SOVA, about which the RBI as well as the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team or CERT-In, the Federal Cyber Security Arm, have warned banks and urged them to take immediate action to protect their mobile app users to seize.
According to a study by Deloitte, India will have 1 billion smartphone users by 2026, with rural areas driving sales of connected phones. It is encouraging to note that Indian users have demonstrated skill in reaping the benefits that high speed connectivity offers. According to Nokia’s Mobile Broadband Index Report 2022, India saw the highest growth in mobile broadband data usage last year, with 4G mobile data up 31% in 2021 and average monthly data usage per person up 26.6% year-on-year increased. The overall mobile broadband subscriber base has grown from 345 million to 765 million over the past five years, and the rollout of 5G will play a major role in realizing the digital economy’s $1 trillion dream. It is thus clear that mobile phones will play a crucial role in India’s digital history.
Ensuring robust mobile security has therefore become an imperative, but unfortunately, securing the mobile phone is easier said than done as people don’t practice good security hygiene, such as using a mask. Such as installing antivirus programs, updating and patching OS and other apps on the mobile phone in a timely manner.
Hackers aggressively target mobile phone users with social engineering strategies and malware like Oscorp, BRATA, SOVA, resulting in exponential increase in hacking incidents. App providers dealing with financial transactions and/or sensitive data are the main targets. It is time to aggressively pursue a cyber security strategy that encompasses the mobile device as hackers mainly target the data rich and the BFSI organizations via user devices. A comprehensive approach to security that includes user education along with technology features that facilitate governance, controls, compliance, monitoring, prevention, and auto-remediation capabilities can mitigate risk and strengthen banking app security.
As people get used to the convenience of using mobile apps, the digital advantage must not become a burden of security incidents. Enterprises that offer apps can work with cybersecurity experts to embed mobile apps in a security architecture with robust capabilities. Critical mobile apps can be embedded with runtime security controls that monitor and provide real-time security on the customer’s device. Built-in self-protection features in an app that ensure device policy enforcement, network controls with robust device binding capabilities are the need of the hour to thwart social engineering attempts to scam customers.
The author is the founder and CEO of Protectt.ai.
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