The role of AI in securing digital payments

At the onset of Covid-19, lots of business was transferred online, consequent to the cessation of movement and reduced human interaction.

This period too saw the sharpest spike in cyber security attacks as most first-time internet and digital users were prey to hungry cybercriminals.

According to research and statistics firm Statista, in 2020 alone, ransomware cost the world $20 billion caused by over 500,000 attacks daily.

Part of why there was a sharp rise in attacks and no adequate response was due to the limitations of professionals to counter cyber-attacks.

Statista found only 4.6 million cyber security experts exist globally, with the majority concentrated in the US.

This is despite the fact that economists, cyber security experts, and delegates at the first in-person (after Covid-19) Visa Security Summit in Dubai in early March 2023, found out that there are over 8 million jobs in the cyber security space.

The immediate alternative to address the shortage is artificial intelligence and machine learning, which are currently being employed for advanced authentication, innovations that global payments processor Visa has championed as a security feature.

“Over the years we’ve seen e-commerce payments accelerate across Africa. A lot more of our consumers are making purchases via e-commerce. We are also seeing an acceleration in contactless payments. One other significant thing we are seeing is other forms of payments like crypto and RTP networks as well,” Otto Williams, Visa’s Head of Products and Partnerships in Central Europe Middle East and Africa told Business Daily on the sidelines of the summit.

But even as contactless payments advance with technological developments, there is still a need to heighten security as cyber criminals also advance their unscrupulous ways to lay bait and attack.

“You may have seen us bringing solutions like artificial intelligence and machine learning to look at the data that we collect and square that data to make sure that merchants are protected. Then look at it from the point of the regulator, its really important that the payments systems are resilient,” Otto said.

While other sectors of the economy like human resources cringe at the job security risk AI presents, more than ever, artificial intelligence is easing human work and developing efficiency.

Abdullahi Sheikh the founder and CEO of Konvergenz, a cyber security firm in Kenya told Business Daily that with the acute surge in cyber-attacks occasioned by businesses migrating online, there was a need to employ fast and more responsive tech to counterattacks, which is what’s giving AI the relevance in the financial sector.

AI employs statistical models to use predictable patterns to tirelessly do much more than humans to avert fraud and risk.

“The AI process of responding to any detected card fraud is if an SMS is sent to you that you are spending, and through behavioral analytics, the bank detects that you have not spent, there is an interface for the machine to call the bank and disable the card, automatically. Then it connects to human customer care and a call is sent out to the client to inform them of an attempt on their account that was averted. The machine does 80% of the work,” Sheikh said.

The basic principle remains that AI is just leveraging on what humans can do but at a faster rate with more accuracy backed by already existing data, to avert any risk of being hacked, scammed or payments being transferred without user authorization.

“The real part is the ability to confirm if your backup doesn’t have ransomware. Ultimately that is what it’s about. But how do we do that? Most backup is 3D, 4D. Currently, there are solutions that look at risk 180-200 dimensions, the same set of data at milliseconds,” Sheikh explained.

Even with the surge in contactless payments, debit and credit cards are here to stay, and Visa reiterates the need for advanced authentication for secure payments and transactions to improve client interaction with financial services.

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