The COVID-19 pandemic changed just about everything, from where we work to how we shop and play. Perhaps the most profound of these changes is the growing importance of digital payments. The safer, more reliable and fast movement of digital money is the engine powering today’s global economy.
“We’ve experienced a massive shift in consumer purchasing behaviour as a result of the pandemic,” says Maryam Saeed, Head of Risk at Visa Canada. “The shift is most evident by the overwhelming number of consumers taking to e-commerce platforms to meet their purchasing needs.”
According to the recent Visa Back to Business Survey, 83 per cent of Canadian small business owners say efforts to sell products and services online saved their business during the pandemic, while 55 per cent of Canadians say that the migration to e-commerce platforms accelerated by the pandemic is likely here to stay. These statistics are representative of an expanding retail ecosystem and a multitude of digital opportunities for merchants to explore.
Fraudsters are taking note
However, amidst the accelerated digitization during the pandemic fraudsters have sought to exploit vulnerabilities in the payments ecosystem. Since the start of the pandemic, one-third of Canadian businesses have experienced an increase in cybercrime incidents, and 79 per cent of global organizations experienced downtime because of a cyber incident during a peak season.
“As the retail and payments ecosystems continue to evolve, so do cybercriminals and the means by which they are committing their attacks,” Saeed says. “The four main vulnerabilities, however, remain the same. People – the consumers and merchants who leverage payments products; data – payment information that’s transferred between multiple parties; infrastructure – fundamental systems like hardware and software supporting checkout; and the point of interaction between these components.”
Identifying fraud trends
Cybercriminals are increasingly more sophisticated and targeted types of fraud are on the rise, allowing them to exploit points of weakness. Particularly in e-commerce transactions.
One type of fraud is digital skimming, where e-commerce websites are attacked using malicious code that targets checkout pages to steal consumer payment account data. Phishing scams remain one of the easiest ways for fraudsters to steal login credentials, personal information or even infiltrate corporate networks. And payment account enumeration is also on the uptick, a crime in which automated software is used to guess and steal payment information.
Ransomware – a type of malware that denies a user’s access to a system or data until a sum is paid – is another serious and evolving threat to businesses. Ransomware attacks happen approximately every 11 seconds globally, resulting in a global cost of more than US$30B. Between 2020 and 2021, global ransomware attacks increased by 151 per cent.
The increased activity involving digital payment fraud has certainly put Canadians on high alert. According to Visa’s 2022 Fraud Prevention Survey, 50 per cent of Canadians agree that they are more cautious now about making financial transactions online because of the risk of fraud compared to before the pandemic.
With 81 per cent of global organizations experiencing cybercrime threats, Saeed says the need for businesses to prioritize security is more critical than ever.
In order to support the digital security needs of consumers and merchants, Visa has a number of online tools and resources available including tips, guides, and fact sheets. These resources are incredibly useful, says Saeed, in educating and informing individuals about the evolving payments landscape, the inherent vulnerabilities, and how they can help protect themselves against cyber threats.
“The recent rise in e-commerce is not expected to recede so there is a real need for retailers to ensure the security of their systems and information to help protect both themselves and their customers,” she says.
Multi-layered, cutting-edge cybersecurity
Despite the increase in fraudulent activity and the complexity of the rapidly changing digital landscape, Saeed explains that Visa continues to provide layers of protection to businesses. “We know that in a digital-first economy, security is a priority for all businesses,” she says. “And while threats may have intensified, the ways in which we’ve been able to manage and mitigate risks year-over-year continue to significantly improve.”
Visa has over 800 full-time cybersecurity specialists using specialized neural networks to analyze data and help protect Visa’s global network from cybercrime threats. This is supported by machine learning models, which predict and fix any potential points of network vulnerability. A dedicated security team works closely with Visa clients, constantly monitoring, scanning and checking their systems for any suspicious activity and vulnerabilities.
“We vigilantly monitor for threats so we can identify, mitigate and take preventative action. In addition, as a global network, Visa has insights into global trends and often identifies threats before they even hit the Canadian market, making Canadian consumers and merchants aware, and providing them with ways they can proactively help protect themselves.”
Visa has invested roughly $9 billion USD globally over the past 5 years into cybersecurity and fraud prevention, and $500 million USD in artificial intelligence and data infrastructure. The company also works closely with its ecosystem partners to maintain and advance security standards, quickly bringing new and innovative products and services to market.
“Trust and security are at the heart of everything Visa does,” says Saeed. “We are continuing to innovate and improve on our products and services to help ensure that we offer a comprehensive suite of fraud prevention solutions. And, approaching fraud prevention and security with a three-pillar approach – involving people, technology and processes – allows us to effectively address any threats that arise.”
Saeed says that merchants and cardholders alike can rely on the support and security of one of the retail industry’s most trusted partners, “with this close integration of people and technology, we’ve developed processes to help mitigate and prevent attacks against the ecosystem, which helps protect the security of consumers and merchants.”
For more information concerning the ways Visa Canada can help you protect your business against the threat of cyberattacks, visit www.visa.ca/fraudprevention
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