We're at that time of year again when we sharpen our pencils and write down all the things we want to accomplish during the next12 months. Don't worry; I'm not going to bore you with my personal New Year's Resolutions. Instead, I'll share some quick thoughts on what I believe the resolutions should be for the banking industry as it continues to do more and more business on the web.
Resolution #1: Rethink Internet and Web Security
High profile attacks on banking web sites in 2012 illustrated that despite having defenses in place, and even having forewarning of attacks, many banks were unable to adequately prevent their sites from going down. Banks have watched the size of attacks targeted against them increase in volume - to levels that even the largest banks do not have the infrastructure to handle.
Attacks in 2012 also highlighted how the infrastructure and tools available to the attackers has changed dramatically. A Moore's Law-like rule applies here. Increased Internet connection speeds and 4G for mobile along with video game-like attack tools have made it significantly easier to launch a crippling attack against several targets at once.
And finally, the effectiveness of the attackers in knocking out sites, and in generating media attention, is putting the focus of bank attacks on the "hacktivist" community. Unfortunately, this may ultimately provide a convenient cover for criminals bent on fraudulent money movement, not web activism.
As a result, in 2013 banks will need to consider more effective ways to stop attacks well before they reach their data centers and seek out innovative alternatives to keep their sites available and secure on the Internet.
Resolution #2: Take Mobile to the Next Level
In 2012, small banks, including many local banks with just a handful of branches, produced mobile banking apps with the same convenience features of the big banks. Remote Check Deposit, bill pay, and other features that just a year ago were considered advanced are now table stakes. Interestingly, some of these smaller banks provided such features as RDC to their customers before some of the big national banks.
In 2013, banks should strive to differentiate their mobile apps from their competitors and the focus should be on engagement - getting customers to use their apps more frequently, and keeping the user in the app longer. For example, explore "No login required" apps that do not require a customer to enter a username and password to access their account details. Just like mobile check deposit, once a handful of banks figure it out, it will fast become the next "must have" app.
Banks must consider that the practice of delivering only a limited set of functions to the mobile app is unacceptable and resolve to migrate major functions once only considered appropriate to a web site, to their mobile apps.
Resolution #3: Get a Handle on Big Data
In 2012, big data was all about big hype. In 2013, big data is going to be a big reality. Due to customer reservation and legal privacy concerns, we may just see that in the banking industry, big data will first applied to security in an effort to help protect customers. Banks should explore how to apply usage patterns and behaviors to solve the problems of protecting banking web sites and customer accounts.
Here's to a happy and prosperous 2013.
Happy New Year.
Rich Bolstridge is Akamai's Chief Strategist for Financial Services