Mobile digital financial services (mDFS) play a critical role in economies in developing countries. From paying for goods to receiving government benefits or compensation for work, in these areas of the world, cell phones and mobile apps are an essential component of the financial transaction system. MITRE Engenuity’s now-completed pilot program addressed the critical need for cybersecurity risk mitigation across the ecosystem.
Across the globe, many financial services are accessed using mobile phones, including:
As more people adopt “mobile money,” the risk of compromised transactions increases. The scope of mDFS is incredibly complex, involving a multitude of factors – socioeconomic, cultural, and technical – and many stakeholders, including wireless companies, banks, app developers, agent networks, governments, and more. Therefore, protecting mDFS becomes a multi-faceted challenge. To address the varied approaches of participants in the fintech ecosystem, MITRE Engenuity’s team set out to create a decision tool (cyber risk model) to help direct industry and government toward solutions-oriented investments.
Our project was designed to offer guidance for those looking to fortify their mDFS ecosystem and provide safer, more reliable storage and transfer of money. This was done by exploring questions such as:
By addressing these questions and others, our cyber risk model can produce recommendations on resource investments tailored to the specific risks most likely to affect secure access to mobile digital financial systems. In identifying these recommendations, our interactive digital cyber risk model tool uses a two-lens (technical and policy/governance) approach to estimate the impact of—and offer mitigants for—eight different kinds of threats to mobile digital financial systems.
By identifying key aspects of their ecosystem, users of the model can discover recommendations tailored to their country’s unique technology and policy environment that will reduce risk, improve access, and increase trust.
Secure access to money is essential for individuals to achieve political stability, gender equity, and economic advancement. Where traditional banking services are not available to many people, or have other barriers to use, mobile digital financial services can dramatically improve this access. Particularly in developing countries, people are increasingly using mobile devices to receive, transfer, and save money—but they are not always aware of the risks associated with these technologies. Recognizing the importance of mDFS, and the wide range of potential vulnerabilities associated with it, many stakeholders are looking for ways to improve access while reducing risk. Our Cyber Risk Model prototype is a decision tool that accounts for hundreds of factors within a highly complex ecosystem to evaluate risks to people, hardware, and software—and offer solutions.
This project was made possible through a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation