Cybersecurity: How Technology Has Made People More and Less Secure

Throughout the entire month of January, The Fintech Times will be exploring every dimension of one of the industry’s most pressing topics: cybersecurity.

Having previously investigated the many cybersecurity challenges facing the modern work from home (WFH) model, today we’ll be stepping into the theme of personal security by colliding the pros and cons of the tech we use every day to keep secure.

Security remains an overarching theme across many contemporary tech solutions. Advancements in biometrics have brought convenience to security, increased cross-collaboration is making security more controllable, and innovators are beginning to think more about what it takes to keep emerging forms of fintech safe.

Part of the success of technology, and particularly in regards to fintech, is down to trust. This is to say that the consumer may not necessarily understand all the ins and outs of the tech, but they trust that its regulators, developers and providers will be there to prevent its fall. In the same way you drive a car. You may not fully understand the complex process that’s pushing the car forward, but you still now how to drive. Consumers drive with fintech.

But what about when this trust starts to crack? Or perhaps, the consumer has placed too much trust in the technology, and maybe the idea behind who’s responsible for personal security is becoming increasingly skewed.

Improvements in technology have brought the consumer experience to new heights, yet the likelihood of falling has never been higher. To understand this, we caught up with three industry experts to hear their take on how technology has made the average consumer both more secure, and more vulnerable.

Dennis Relojo-Howell, the founder of psychology website PsychregDennis Relojo-Howell, the founder of psychology website Psychreg
Dennis Relojo-Howell

Dennis Relojo-Howell, the founder of psychology website Psychreg, explains: ‘Modern technology has its effect on virtually every aspect of our lives; with the help of technology the things that seemed impossible in the past are now easily done. Undeniably, technological innovations have made it easy for us to communicate to our friends – and even to strangers – instantaneously. But, at the same time, many of us have lost the ability to interact with others without these digital devices between us. Technology has also led to a surge in instances like cyberbullying and stalking, which make many people feel less secure.

James Bore, Director, Bores ConsultancyJames Bore, Director, Bores Consultancy
James Bore

Adding to this, James Bore, Director, Bores Consultancy says: “It’s hard to argue that technology has made people more secure, given our reliance on complex, interlinked systems which are constantly under threat is entirely because of technology. It certainly has brought benefits, but I would usually argue that it has changed the nature of the threats. While it’s not a perfect indicator, the fact that traditional crime is sharply decreasing while cyber crimes are sky rocketing shows that this shift is happening. Basically, you are a bit less likely to be mugged or burgled, you are much more likely to have your bank balance drained through phishing or vishing attacks.”

The founder of the London-based identity startup Sumsub, Jacob Sever explains how wiser tech is generating smarter attacks with more devastating results: “Technological advancement has also exposed people to numerous digital hazards. The development of deepfake technology, for example, has given criminals unprecedented ability to steal digital identities, commandeer bank accounts, and collect sensitive data. Accordingly, technical advancements (like deepfakes) have proliferated cybercrime in recent years, with reports of identity theft, online scams, and ransomware attacks increasing tremendously.”

This last point regarding the widespread use of deepfakes is particularly concerning, as the fintech industry experienced a 50 per cent increase in fraudulent activity during 2021, when compared to the previous year. Although opposing studies have strongly suggested that AI technology could be utilised to phwart such attacks, differing reports also suggest how awareness around the use of deepfake technology remains in its infancy; with as much at three-quarters of UK adults being unfamiliar with how such technology is used.

Despite all the doom and gloom, there are still many positives that technology, and especially fintech, has managed to bring to the table.

Addressing how technology has made the everyday consumer more secure, Relojo-Howell explains: “We can argue that modern technology has actually made us less secure. But this is ignoring the fact of how long businesses have been using computers and the internet – it’s been decades. For instance, technological evolution enables banks to do as much as they can to make digital banking not only more convenient but safer. On a governmental level, facial recognition can help to identify terrorists and other criminals.”

Jacob Sever, co-founder and CPO, SumsubJacob Sever, co-founder and CPO, Sumsub
Jacob Sever

Continuing on from his earlier commentary, Sever added: “In some ways, modern technology has made our livеs more secure. For instance, data encryption and digital identity checks ensure that the online services we use are well protected from impostors and scammers. This makes us feel safe when making online financial transactions—be they on crypto exchanges, online banks, or e-commerce shops. Also, thanks to cloud technologies, we no longer need to rely solely on physical storage methods (like hard drives) to keep our data and assets safe.”

This is to say that we shouldn’t lose faith in modern cybersecurity measures or the technology it seeks to protect. As with many things in life, there are two sides of the coin to keeping safe online, and it is up to the innovators, regulators and the consumers of this technology to exploit its benefits to fight the fight against increasingly smarter cybercriminals.

  • Tyler is a Fintech Junior Journalist with specific interests in Online Banking and emerging AI technologies. He began his career writing with a plethora of national and international publications.

  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.