Just about every week it seems theres a new headline about another cyber attack on a major corporation or government agency.
Hackers are working overtime disrupting systems and stealing vital data like social security numbers and medical records. That kind of data can prove highly valuable to hackers. But there is perhaps no more profitable target for hackers than the electronic payments platforms, through which billions of dollars are passed every day. Recent highly-visible attacks have given pause to consumers and businesses alike. As payments move irreversibly to digital platforms, how do we make sure they are secure?
In answering that question, FinTech companiesincluding those in the American Transaction Processors Coalition (ATPC)are spending millions of dollars each year to protect their systems. Their customers rely on secure systems so consumers can have peace of mind when making a transaction and continue shopping with that merchant.
Those investments are important, and have made electronic payments extremely safe. But faced with global cybersecurity threats, no one company can or should be expected to do it alone. The only truly effective way to combat these cyber threats and protect their customers is by working together and in partnership with government to share information on threats and ways to combat them.
That is why the ATPC has been lobbying Congress to pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation. The House of Representatives has already passed two strong bills (the Protecting Cyber Networks Act and the National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act). We are now urging the Senate to take up and pass the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (S. 754) as soon as possible.
These bills promote information sharing around cybersecurity between private companies. Instead of being forced to act independently, these bills would afford the opportunity to share data on cyber threats and ways to combat them.
This wont just help companies, including payments processors, become more secure. A more-secure environment will also allow companies to free up resources that they are currently devoting to security to invest more in product innovation, talent recruitment and expansion.
It is clearly time to act. As both FBI Director James Comey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper both testified before Congress recently, cyber attacks are now increasingly recognized by the law enforcement and intelligence communities as the top domestic threat.
Though some cyber attacks attract more news attention than others, any company with a physical storefront or an online payment presence needs to be aware of the threats. According to the Global State of Information Security Survey 2015, the number of detected security incidents rose by 48% from 2013 to 2014 a 66% year-over-year increase from just five years ago. That equates to approximately 117,000 attacks detected each day.
We may never be totally immune to the threat of cyber attacks, but we have the opportunity now to equip the private sector and government with strong new tools to help significantly minimize their impact. Financial technology companies make attractive targets, which is why we are among the leaders in pushing through these bills. The House of Representatives gave strong, bipartisan support to its cybersecurity legislation. We look forward to the Senate following suit.
H. West Richards is Executive Director of the American Transaction Processors Coalition (www.atpcoalition.org)