Two areas where payment technology has struggled to tackle the Covid-19 crisis have been around the rise of fraudulent transactions and customers experiencing false declines. Apart from these two areas, there is also a massive increase in cases of phishing, critical cyber attacks on transaction channels, and more.
Taking the context of Mastercard, an American multinational financial services company with assets worth $29.236 billion. On average the company experiences 200 fraud attempts per minute. Mastercard is actively updating cyber security systems and has prevented $46 billion in potential customer fraud losses in 2017, and this number rose to $52 billion worth of fraudulent transactions being prevented on the network in 2018-19.
To ensure secured contact less payments, Mastercard has been using AI driven tools and advanced network level fraud defence layer which focuses on warding off any large scale fraud attacks on the network and is equipped with sophisticated ML tools to ensure secured transactions.
In an interview with ETCIO, Vikas Varma, Chief Operating Officer, South Asia, Mastercard said there has been no major impact on the business during the lockdown. In fact, the company saw a 40 percent YoY jump in contactless payments in the first quarter.
What is the business impact of Covid-19 on Mastercard?
At a time like this, payments technology can help in ensuring health and safety for cardholders during the kind of social distancing and quarantine measures we are seeing around the world. This includes helping people shop and pay from the safety and comfort of their homes or by allowing them to avoid actual contact in stores. One such example that is relevant for today’s time is Mastercard contactless technology. It lets you make everyday purchases quickly and safely with just a tap of a contactless-enabled Mastercard card or device — wherever the universal contactless symbol is displayed. It works best since there is no physical touch that is required – ensuring personal safety along with minimizing the risk of payment fraud.
We have observed a 40 percent jump in contactless payments — including tap-to-pay and mobile pay — during the first quarter as the global pandemic worsened. Our business operations continue as normal, supported by a resilient core infrastructure and comprehensive business continuity plans.
Our network is allowing consumers to get necessities from the comfort and shelter of their homes and is enabling merchants to continue operating. We have always enabled people to buy the things they want and need in the safest, most secure manner possible. Now, more than ever, we’re putting all our power, capabilities, and technology to work to keep commerce flowing. We are putting in all efforts to make sure that our technology network works efficiently to enable digital payments around the world so that home essentials reach people smoothly and seamlessly.
How critical is it to manage cybersecurity in this pandemic situation? How is your cybersecurity team managing it with new technology and expertise?
Ever since the lockdown due to Covid-19, there has been a sharp rise in digital payments for buying essential goods and services. Instruments such as contactless cards on PoS terminals and mobile payments are enabling consumers to pay conveniently for their purchases, while maintaining the necessary social distance.
At Mastercard, safety and security of payments is our topmost priority. Our Intelligence Centre, Security Operations Centre (SOC), Vulnerability Management, and the Messaging teams to track and respond to pandemic-related cyber threats and focusing on Covid-19 related email phishing attempts. Our Proofpoint email gateway software blocks malicious email campaigns identified by vendors, industry, and government sources.
These sources include the very latest pandemic-related malicious messaging trends. We are also working with our customers and partners to follow and educate and encourage the use of standards as security is not just the responsibility of one entity but the entire ecosystem.
Even though the payment flows are equipped with several latest cybersecurity features to safeguard consumers’ interest, the consumers need to be highly vigilant and guarded against cyber hackers who are on the lookout to exploit the current situation and play on the anxiety of people.
Experts suggest that the most common online attacks during this time is phishing/social engineering attacks. Keeping this in mind, consumers should make sure they are not opening web links from unknown sources or sharing their OTPs and other passwords freely, also they need to be wary of connecting their system to an external network.
How is the Covid-19 challenge different from the challenges you have seen as a COO?
It is definitely a different challenge and perspective for the world. Covid-19 is disrupting people’s lives and interrupting political, social, economic, and financial structures across the globe.
The current situation is much starker than what I have seen in the global financial crisis of 2008, which hit the Indian financial sector however, we nearly escaped the direct adverse impact of the Great Recession of 2008-09.
Though India did not have a rulebook to refer to a decade ago, the initial impact on India was muted as GDP growth slowed from 9% in 2007-08 to 7.8% in April-September 2008. On the other hand, Covid-19 is a combination of disease that represents a threat to health and has an economic impact, probably never experienced by the world in the recent or distant past.
The pandemic has presented new roadblocks for the Indian economy and has flatten its growth curve. Due to disrupted demand and supply chain across the country tourism, retail, hospitality, and aviation sectors are facing the maximum impact of the current crisis.
For every business there will be tough decision making but despite all of this, we need to remember that every crisis serves as a learning opportunity and we are hopeful that India and other nations will be able to navigate through this.
What are the technology touch-points of ensuring BCP readiness at Mastercard?
Owing to a resilient core infrastructure, our operations are running without disruption as Mastercard focuses on helping to keep commerce flowing. Mastercard’s wide range of customer solutions include intelligence sharing to reduce the volume of unnecessary chargebacks and disputes by maintaining security in the collective system by scanning the payment ecosystem 24×7.
Our security operations centre and operation command centre employees are part of the critical frontline infrastructure working in split shifts around the world to maintain our operations and ensure performance resiliency. They are actively monitoring, detecting and blocking known pandemic-related threats against the network and our employees, in addition to malware and ransomware threats.
We have swiftly moved to work from home phase while ensuring that our employees are equipped with required hardware and software. We are also working towards proving virtual training to every domain and team verticals.
For better communication, we have online platforms and our Talent team is ensuring mental and physical well being of every employee. Apart from this, we have taken measures for our on-site teams as well.
How are you leveraging IT to add to the top and bottom lines?
In Mastercard, technology has always played an instrumental role in bridging the gap between today and tomorrow’s reality, even more in these times. It holds enormous promise as it brings the people and economies of the world closer together, when social distancing is the new reality.
We aim to make them as smooth and seamless as possible. This is the guiding principle behind how we drive businesses and help them grow.
And, to make payments safe and risk free, we are leveraging AI based Mastercard Decision Intelligence as a real-time authorization decisioning solution that helps in reducing the risk of cyber threats.
It applies thousands of data points and sophisticated modelling techniques to each transaction, simplifying these insights into a single transaction decision score that helps issuers fine-tune their authorization decisions to approve more genuine transactions without increasing risk.
Our system has a huge memory grid of various types of transaction limits that are monitored in real-time. Whenever any aspect of this grid gets triggered the AI tools evaluate every type of decision based on historical patterns of spikes and its impact.