FinTech’s popularity signals that it’s time to get serious about apps

If there is one clear takeaway from our investigation into FinTech, it’s that it is high time to put app security first. The convenience, automation, and data analysis offered by apps to users is no longer limited to the games, flashlight optimizers and anti-stress apps that populated the early app marketplace. 

The risks surrounding mobile apps have increased, along with the complexities of the solutions they offer. Among today’s top-ranking apps are integrated banking, e-trading, cryptocurrency and even regulatory compliance solutions. These complex applications move very real, personal and valuable data. While apps with lower complexities can still be exploited by malicious actors, the consequences of security breaches from FinTech applications can be considerably worse.

ESET has put both its time and research money where its mouth is for ten years, by helping to lower risks to smartphone users. This is most evident in ESET Mobile Security (EMS), which, since its release in 2011, has performed its protective functions across the many app types in the marketplace. EMS evolved in line with the increasingly complex mix of games, social media, mobile banking, online trading and various messaging platforms that have emerged over the past decade. Based on its popularity, it has taken the sting out of many common user mistakes and carelessness with mobile apps.

Our interest in FinTech can be mapped to a long-term focus on Android banking malware, a topic ESET focused several years of its threat research and product development on. Next, moves were made to collaborate with Google to protect Google Play, and even Chrome itself. And now, we set out to protect and raise consumer and business awareness via a new source – market research. Our FinTech consumer and business surveys set out to quantify and understand the risks people are willing to take to reap the benefits of FinTech.

We surveyed 10,000 consumers and 1,200 business leaders in a variety of industries across the UK, US, Australia, Japan, Mexico and Brazil. Respondents from both consumer and business perspectives were asked an extensive series of questions on the topics of financial technology and cybersecurity, and their impacts on securing finances in a COVIDian world, particularly in light of the coronavirus lockdowns.

While apps continued to increase in popularity, no one could have foreseen the effects of the pandemic on our digital lives. Amid regional and national lockdowns, and restrictions on physical businesses, we turned to our digital devices, and apps, more than ever. The interest in using FinTech platforms and solutions has been magnified, and as a result, it is even more imperative that app security is taken seriously.

Our market research clearly illustrated the popularity of FinTech solutions for both consumers and businesses, with almost two-thirds (62%) of consumers worldwide using some form of FinTech app or platform. In addition, over two-thirds (68%) of business leaders expect their companies’ investments in FinTech to increase in 2021/2022, and 81% of senior managers surveyed agree that COVID-19 has increased the need for improved security of finances.

However, of the 42% of global consumers that use a free FinTech application or platform, half do not know if the app they use sells their data. Additionally, only 31% of people say they read the terms and conditions of a FinTech application before downloading it, and only 29% read the privacy policy. Even among the one in five consumers worldwide who rate themselves as advanced in tech proficiency, 31% do not use a password manager. Although consumers who used four or more FinTech apps were more likely to have security software installed, and therefore, be better protected, information surrounding the risks of FinTech apps is lacking. Only 17% of consumers strongly felt that the quality of information available on the potential risks related to the usage of FinTech applications – such as digital wallets, budgeting apps, or e-trading apps – is adequate. 

For businesses, FinTech solutions offer streamlined, advanced and efficient processes to manage finances, and security is clearly a key priority with 72% of businesses actively investing in new technologies for better security of finances, and 81% of senior business leaders reporting that they adopt a cybersecurity-first approach when investing in new technology solutions. Although both FinTech solutions and cybersecurity are top of mind for many businesses across the world, the risk cybercriminals pose remains weighty. 

Over half (58%) of businesses surveyed are confident in their security stances, while acknowledging that they are likely to be impacted by a cybersecurity incident. Of these businesses, those in information, research, and analysis (93%), and accounting, banking, and finance (87%) industries were most likely to think a cybersecurity incident would impact them. With 45% of businesses having experienced a cyber breach in the past, the security of FinTech platforms and apps is paramount to an organization’s financial security, and perhaps more pressingly, to its post-COVID-19 economic recovery. 

There is no doubt about it – FinTech apps are here to stay. Whether you’re a casual user of a budgeting app or trading platform, or a global corporation using FinTech solutions to increase efficiency and profit, the security of your financial and personal data is paramount. Applications are able to take complicated concepts and platforms and distill them into user-friendly, easily accessible platforms, and for this exact reason, it can be all too easy to overlook whose hands data is falling into, and how it can be exploited. The security and safety of applications, especially, but not limited to, FinTech, must be considered just as important as overall user experience and benefit. Without comprehensive security, the benefits of FinTech applications cannot be fully appreciated, because the consequences of botched financial security are simply too high.

For more insight into FinTech for business and consumers, check out our blog. For security tips around FinTech, read more at WeLiveSecurity.