Like It or Not, Our Financial Lives are Already on the Cloud

Chirag Nanavati, Executive Director, Asset Vantage
Chirag Nanavati, Executive Director, Asset Vantage

With the entry of non-traditional online FinTech players and growth of m-banking changing the traditional ways of operations, the Indian users have witnessed an increase in cyber-attacks in recent years.

By  Chirag Nanavati

It is a no brainer that our entire digital lives, both professional and personal alike, exist on the cloud. While it has made our lives easier, public clouds have also made our data easily susceptible to cyber-attacks. If you’re thinking, ‘I have never stored my data on a public cloud, so it should not be vulnerable to data breaches’, you cannot be farther away from the truth!

Signing up with your personal email ids on websites, receiving reset password links, emailing important documents to oneself and so on, are all recorded on a public cloud. This becomes a treasure chest of personal data for hackers. In spite of infrastructural challenges, India is currently witnessing rapid adoption of internet even in the most remote areas. As expected, there is a noticeable growth in the number of people who access the internet and public cloud every day. Unsuspecting users continue to use the internet, feeling safe by watching the ‘https://’ precede their web address. But are these users aware that their personal information is being tracked and analysed by almost every virtual data tracker?

It is worrying to see how individuals manage their financial life online, capturing all their sensitive data on public cloud platforms. With the rise of online financial services and the transformation of the BFSI sector, threat of financial data theft looms larger day by day. This can be affirmed by a recent report by KPMG that highlights that the BFSI sector is a top target for crime. The report also states that 72% of companies surveyed, faced cyber-attacks last year. These alarming figures are a testament to the worthiness of the consumer’s information.

With the entry of non-traditional online FinTech players and growth of m-banking changing the traditional ways of operations, the Indian users have witnessed an increase in cyber-attacks in recent years.

Following are a few examples of how unsafe the allegedly “safe” financial communication via email and websites can be:

-An individual’s stock portfolio is usually tracked on free online financial websites

-Financial encrypted data such as bank statements and IT return confirmations received in PDF formats have a simplistic password combination that can be easily guessed (typically PAN number or a combination of the first name and four digit birthdate)

-End of quarter / year statements and manual spreadsheet data are shared via email to the chartered accountants’ email ID, which can be a common email ID used in the firm where multiple employees at the accounting firm can login and scan through information in the emails

-Also, multiple important documents are stored on online drives or dropbox accounts, where multiple people have un-restricted access as they may be shared within a family

One can go on and on about the shortcomings of public cloud in the personal finance space. Believe it or not, our financial lives are already on the cloud. Perhaps the question we should really ask ourselves is how can we secure our financial data on the cloud?

Owing to the challenges faced by the public cloud, various industries such as the BFSI sector, have started to adopt private cloud. CIO’s 2016 report titled ‘State of the CIO Research, 2016’ observes that CIOs in the BFSI industry have a strong inclination towards deploying private cloud, with 40% CIOs using or planning to use private cloud.

Since an increasing number of banks are launching innovative solutions in the FinTech space, private cloud will soon become the need of the hour. As mentioned earlier, India is witnessing tremendous growth in the FinTech sector. Considering that India is the fastest growing smartphone market in Asia, it comes as no surprise that FinTech services such as m-wallets, m-banking and more are widely used on smartphones. Since we live in an interconnected world, it raises legitimate questions on the security of the financial data on smartphones. It is not as if smartphones are exempted of data thefts. Malware through apps, scam messages and calls and so on are common methods of data thefts on smartphones.

Owing to the growth of data thefts globally, cyber security has become one of the greatest threats to the digital user. International countries have formed committees and associations to tackle this ever growing threat. Closer to home, the Indian government has released policies such as the National Cyber Security Policy 2013, which protect public and private infrastructure from cyber-attacks. Additionally, Indian companies have started embracing private and hybrid cloud to keep the data safe.

Complete with a unique and personal URL, private cloud servers are not only safe and secure, but are also tailored and customized to the user’s needs. Since private cloud also provides a greater control over its infrastructure than public cloud, private cloud platforms should be the ideal choice for the storage of private financial data and documents for wealth owners.

The author is Executive Director, Asset Vantage

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