Long reads

Our online world is now defined by community and connection

Paul Trueman

Paul Trueman

SVP Product Advancement, Cyber & Intelligence, Mastercard

The digital revolution has generally arrived gradually, over years and decades. We’ve come a long way from the 90s’ view of the internet as the domain of techno-tribes. In 2019, conventional wisdom dictated that some interactions only really worked 'in real life'. Digital was a poor substitute for in-person. In many ways, that 2019 perspective now looks as quaint as that of the 90s.

The events of 2020 have acted as an accelerant: dramatically speeding up migration to the digital world. In the face of social distancing and travel restrictions, digital communities have enabled us to maintain our personal and business relationships and practises in a way few of us could have imagined nearly two years ago.

The increased ability to connect digitally presents a host of opportunities, but as we know, not every connection is benign. In 2020, global ransomware reporting increased 485% year on year, while cybercrime damages are already estimated to cost a staggering $5.2 trillion annually. To provide some context, Mastercard’s AI powered technology saved $20 billion of fraud in 2020 alone, and we expect that to grow to $50 billion by 2024.

As consumer digital connectivity becomes ever more pervasive, so does the magnitude of the attack surface. The Internet of Things means the threat is not limited to our online activity; home appliances, cars, healthcare equipment and even industrial machinery – each becomes a potential vulnerability. Current estimates suggest there will be 50 to 75 billion connected devices by 2023, so we must ask: is the industry prepared to ensure those nodes are secure and trusted?

The challenges of connectivity require greater collaboration

This growing connectivity introduces an interesting tension. Businesses and consumers are vulnerable to cyber attacks primarily through people – customers, employees, and vendors – who make, build, or control the digital connections between parties. However, if people are the weakest link, they are also the greatest strength. The speed of the development of Covid-19 vaccines shows that even the biggest challenges can be met through collaboration. Creating a sustainably secure future will require people and organisations coming together around a shared responsibility and vision. We must place the needs of the user at the heart of our technological innovation.

And the future of innovation is in partnership and collaboration. We know that we can’t solve all of the problems we’d like to solve by ourselves, so that is one of the reasons we host our Cyber & Risk Summit – creating a space for dialogue and debate, for exploration and ideation It’s hugely critical for global leaders to play an active role by sharing ideas and creating solutions that allow us to step away from vertical industry silos.

But, as individuals and organisations, we know that building trust takes time, while losing it can take seconds. Trust is the cornerstone of our digital futures, and that can only be earned through innovation that is accessible and innovation that is implemented openly, fairly, and inclusively.

It is in all our interests to ensure we’re building our technologies that will earn the long-lasting trust of those who rely on them most.

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