We are at the eight-month anniversary since we last met as both the Secure Technology Alliance and U.S. Payments Forum organizations at the 2020 Payments Summit in Salt Lake City in February. During that conference event, surrounded by snowy mountains and crisp clean air, we were all blissfully unaware of the coronavirus that had arrived on both coasts and was rapidly spreading across the country. Looking back on that time and all that has transpired since then, I am struck by how many changes we have endured as a society, as a security-focused industry, and as an organization representing these industries.
Besides the obvious repercussions to our society like the serious illnesses for millions and deaths for nearly 250,000 citizens, there has also been the quarantine keeping us away from our workplaces, the stoppage of air travel, and the shuttering of small businesses and restaurants, which has been devastating. Like many, I expected these disruptions to be for a few months and be limited to dense population centers, and then things would return to the way it was. But that was naïve of me and wishful thinking.
The security industry was jolted into action shortly after the country went into lockdown to try to deal with millions of non-digital natives trying to move their lives to online services with no one to show them how to do it correctly or safely. Zoom became the primary way for people to communicate and millions of people discovered online shopping, curb-side pick-up, and mobile delivery services like Instacart. People rushed to open new online accounts and put their payments preferences online. The fraudsters were quick to capitalize on the oceans of personal information and vulnerable credentials left exposed due to poor password hygiene. Today account takeover fraud is costing e-commerce retailers $16.9 billion and the number of stolen credentials for sale on the dark web is up 300 percent. Security experts and fraud mitigation tools are in high demand and little is expected to change even after COVID-19 gets under control.
As an industry organization, we were significantly impacted too. However, the storyline is not so negative when you consider how well we continue to deliver business intelligence about the rapidly evolving security landscape that was energized by the pandemic. People need fresh information and access to it through other channels has disappeared. Although we are not meeting at in-person conferences, our members are still able to network together and be educated about new technology and security services. We can still work in collaborative virtual working groups and publish articles, white papers, FAQs, and web resources. The lack of in-person events and face-to-face meetings have been replaced by virtual conference sessions, webinars, and video conference-enabled working committee sessions. The ability to still connect through the activities supported by the Alliance provides a valuable bridge between the way it used to be (pre-COVID) and the way it may be in the future. This value for Alliance members continues to appreciate the longer we remain under the business and safety restrictions of the coronavirus. Let’s all hope our security industry and society respond as well as the Alliance has.
Executive Director, Secure Technology Alliance