The Connection Between Security and Customer Lifetime Value: Insights from Discover Global CISO

When it comes to securing payments, one can never be too safe. As digital transactions increase and technology advances at breakneck speed, so do the tactics of cyber adversaries. I had the opportunity to sit down with Sunil Mallik, Chief Information Security Officer at Discover® Global Network, to delve into the intricate relationship between cybersecurity and customer lifetime value.

Sunil Mallik began by painting a stark picture of the current cyber threat landscape. “The barrier for entry has never been lower for threat actors,” he noted, pointing out that the reduction in the cost of computing power has made it easier for criminals to access powerful tools and launch sophisticated attacks. The rise in digital transactions has exponentially increased the potential for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities, making the payments industry one of the most dynamically challenged sectors in securing critical infrastructure and data.

One of the most intriguing aspects of our conversation was Mallik’s perspective on emerging technologies like generative artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum cryptography. According to him, these innovations present both challenges and opportunities. “Quantum cryptography could break encryption, and we will all have to evolve in the detection, prevention, and protection space,” he said. While quantum threat capabilities are likely to remain at the “nation-state” level, AI-generated deepfakes and scams are already proliferating, adding another layer of complexity to cybersecurity.

Despite these challenges, Mallik remains optimistic about the transformative potential of AI and machine learning in enhancing payment security. “AI can help manage the sheer volume of security-related data processed by payment systems, allowing firms to identify anomalies in milliseconds and provide real-time protection to secure transactions,” he explained. This rapid identification and response are crucial as cyber threats become increasingly sophisticated.

Discover® Global Network employs a multilayered cybersecurity strategy that integrates people, processes, and technology. “It’s a combination of defenses at the human layer, controls at the network layer, application layer, and business process layer,” Mallik elaborated. This comprehensive approach is complemented by continuous monitoring of the external threat environment.

Mallik emphasized the importance of education and awareness among employees, who are often the first line of defense against cyber threats. “It starts with our people,” he said. “We ensure that our workforce is educated about the cyber risks associated with their daily activities. We implement strict access controls and use multifactor authentication to secure transactions. We also have a mature cyber threat intelligence program that monitors the external environment for potential threats.”

Collaboration and information sharing are also vital components of a robust cybersecurity framework. Mallik advocates for partnerships between financial institutions, merchants, regulatory bodies, and industry groups to combat cyber threats effectively. “I’m a firm believer that information sharing is key,” he stated. Such collaborations enable the industry to stay ahead of evolving threats and implement best practices for cybersecurity.

Looking ahead, Mallik acknowledged that securing the financial services supply chain will continue to be a challenge. However, he believes that AI and machine learning can play a significant role in identifying vendor risks and staying up to date with automated compliance programs. “We need to embrace technology for the greater good and reduce fraud across the environment for anyone in the payment ecosystem,” he said, adding that “the speed of trust is measured in milliseconds.”

Mallik concluded our conversation with a poignant reminder of the ultimate goal: without secure payments that are available when customers want them, there can be no trust or relationship. It is this trust that underpins customer lifetime value, making cybersecurity not just a technical requirement but a fundamental business imperative.

By Olivia Spencer

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