Latin America is one of the hardest hit regions in the world by cybercrime — and cybercriminals are only getting more sophisticated by the day. Many attacks are homegrown, highly-effective, and targeted specifically at financial institutions in LATAM.
In this Q&A, Jorge Aguilar Perez, BioCatch Sales Director for Mexico, Central America, and Caribbean, shares his thoughts on the main cybersecurity challenges in Latin America for financial institutions and where the industry is headed in the next five years.
Tell us a little about your professional background and your role at BioCatch. What made you excited to join the company?
Jorge Aguilar Perez: I have over 10 years of experience working with the security divisions of businesses in the banking, retail, and telco verticals in Mexico and throughout the rest of Latin America. In my role at BioCatch, I have the opportunity to bring the next generation of authentication into the region and help businesses here in Latin America beat cybercriminals while easing the customer experience.
When I first discussed BioCatch’s patents and advances in innovation with Oren Kedem, BioCatch’s Vice President of LATAM, I became extremely excited about the technology and the potential applications for behavioral biometrics, which truly represents the next stage in the evolution of digital identity verification.
Human behavior has become the most difficult security key to replicate. BioCatch authenticates users by who they are, rather than by what they know (e.g, passwords, security questions). By analyzing more than 2000 different behavioral patterns during a session (post-login), it is possible to determine whether the user is in fact the genuine user and not a human/non-human imposter.
So I was very excited about the possibilities for this technology, and of course, the people who are behind this company are amazing. People like Uri Rivner and Avi Turgeman are brilliant minds at the forefront of the industry.
From your perspective, what are the main cybersecurity challenges your clients in LATAM are facing?
Jorge: It is important to understand that LATAM has a different culture around cybersecurity than other parts of the world. For many years, there has not been enough investment in cybersecurity in Latin America, which has allowed the hackers to exploit many vulnerabilities that do not exist in other regions with a more mature security infrastructure.
During my time working with clients throughout Latin America, I have consistently seen technologies evolve. However, every day attacks are becoming increasingly more sophisticated as well. A solution that was very good 10 years ago is likely not effective today, as cybercriminals have learned to reverse engineer and beat the security measures of old.
In fact, according to Forbes, cyberattacks have increased between 30% - 40% in Latin America in recent years, with 92% of banking institutions in Latin America suffering cyberattacks in 2018. Mexico, Uruguay, Chile, and Ecuador are among the countries that have been most affected.
These statistics tell us that the majority of institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean still need to invest more in cybersecurity, and governments must also lead the way in developing an effective legislative framework to cover the digital ecosystem and provide security for consumers in the region. Remember also that mobile penetration is extremely high in Latin America. Mobile payments are developing rapidly, which creates many openings for cybercriminals as well.
How have you seen BioCatch be able to help Latin American financial institutions in ways that other solutions have not been able to?
Jorge: BioCatch’s DNA is made of innovation, adaptation, a sense of urgency for our customers, and a strong solution based on behavioral biometrics that allows financial institutions to be more effective in addressing constantly evolving cyberthreats.
In the last five years, cybercriminals have found an effective, accelerated, and low-cost way to obtain large amounts of money attacking the financial sector in Latin America. Their attacks tend to be very targeted and homegrown, which makes it harder to deal with on a broader scale.
Because it is dynamic, then, the BioCatch solution is able to leapfrog traditional solutions in being able to catch more fraud while reducing false positives.
But it’s not just about good technology. Customers in LATAM need trusted advisors, and we have subject matter experts in the world of threat and threat intelligence located in the region. These people work hand-in-hand with our customers to understand how best to deploy the technology, how to fit in our real-time risk scores into the technology stack, and how best to align the BioCatch capability to maximize their operational effectiveness.
Where do you think behavioral biometrics is going in the next five years?
Jorge: As with every innovation in security, fraudsters will try to adapt. However, behavior is very difficult for fraudsters to get past because it is passive, invisible, dynamic, and not prone to reverse-engineering or replay attacks. I see more and more institutions adding behavioral biometrics to their tech stack in the coming years to gain a more robust ability to identify users on their digital channels to tackle many use cases — not just identifying fraud, but leveraging the capacity of behavior to provide insights on consumer preferences and further enhance the user experience.
My personal conclusion is that behavioral biometrics will prove to be one of the most important technologies in enabling online banking and commerce.
How do you see banking and financial services changing in Latin America in the next five years?
Jorge: Banks and retailers will need to offer full, comprehensive experiences on the web and mobile for their clients. Many institutions in LATAM are not there yet. Challenger banks, financial inclusion programs, and e-government services, however, will push all of this forward. Banking will not just be available for the top percentage of the population.
We will see mobile payments, e-retail, P2P, and cross-border payments all become ubiquitous, and what will make it all possible is seamless digital identity. We already have an unusual identification framework in the region that can be leveraged for onboarding new customers online, to secure transactions and authenticate payers and payees.
In five years, the elements of digital identity will be tied together. Onboarding will feed into a user record that will be leveraged for authentication and preventing account takeover, all with minimal disruption to the user.
Learn more about how behavioral biometrics are making banking and payments both secure and frictionless.