Payments Innovation

Shedding Light On The Darknet

OWL Cybersecurity

With emerging technologies and new customer trends constantly impacting the way consumers pay, information security can often be an afterthought on the path to innovation. In the latest installment of the Commanders In Chief series, Mark Turnage, CEO of OWL Cybersecurity, shed light on why understanding the increasing threat of the darknet — and ensuring that products are safeguarded against it — is critical to ensuring that payments organizations can operate safely and security.

Innovation in payments can happen in the blink of an eye. But so can an attack or threat from increasingly sophisticated cybercriminals. In order to keep payments innovation moving quickly and safely, Mark Turnage, CEO of OWL Cybersecurity, said it’s important to ensure information security remains at the forefront of the new products and services being introduced into the market. Turnage joined the latest installment of PYMNTS Commander In Chief Series to share why safeguarding the personal and financial data of consumers can no longer be an afterthought in payments innovation.

Here is an excerpt of the conversation.

PYMNTS: How would you define your company’s approach to innovation?

MT: At OWL Cybersecurity, we are changing the way the world thinks about the darknet. With the largest commercially available database of darkint — darknet content — we empower organizations to swiftly detect security gaps and mitigate damage prior to misuse of their data. We are innovating how organizations safely and securely interact with the darknet.

PYMNTS: Where do you look for innovative ideas, and why?

MT: While I look both externally and internally for innovative ideas, I have to say I rely most heavily on my team. We have assembled a group of experts here at OWL Cybersecurity, and we rely heavily on our people to be the driving force behind our innovation. Our team is the heart of our business; each player brings a unique combination of experience, knowledge and energy to our projects.

PYMNTS: What is the most innovative thing you’ve ever done?

MT: Personally leading my last startup to become the largest provider of anti-counterfeiting technologies globally. Along the way we created several new products and services that had never before existed, including online monitoring for the sale of counterfeit products. We also created a portfolio of several hundred patents. I feel this new endeavor has even more potential to be innovative at the cutting edge of cybersecurity.

PYMNTS: What do you wish you had more time to do?

MT: Think. Read. Ponder. Talk with other technologists about what they are doing.

PYMNTS: What do you think that most people underestimate about innovating in payments?

MT: Being the darknet experts, we believe that many people underestimate the role that the darknet plays as a threat to the security of an organization. We continually see innovative products released in the payment space; however, relatively few of them are sound enough from an information security perspective. New threats arise on nearly a daily basis as the volume of valuable payments-related data continues to grow exponentially, which can make innovating in payments a challenge within our niche of the space.

PYMNTS: What keeps you up at night? What concerns you most in the payment solutions space?

MT: The threats are very, very real.  The actors targeting industries — like the payments industry — are very capable, focused, well-financed and patient. That keeps me up at night.

PYMNTS: What trends and changes are you watching that are affecting the industry and your role?

MT: I’m closely watching the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), both within the payment industry and across other verticals in which we work. As customers expand their use of mobile devices in the payments space, IoT challenges us all. Payments innovators must look to developing solutions that meet these needs, and we continue to watch IoT and its impacts from an information security perspective.

PYMNTS: What product has had the most impact on payments in the past five years, and why?

MT: While I don’t think it has had the effect yet that it will, mobile payments will disrupt the industry even more than they have — while creating an enormous challenge from an information security perspective. Customers want to pay using their watch, their phone, biometrics and more. The data and technology that allow this will drive enormous changes.

PYMNTS: What person or company do you think “gets” innovation, and why – and, conversely, who or what has missed it, and why?

MT: Apple. Not everything they have done has worked — in contradiction to my above statement, Apple Pay has not been a success. But for the number of innovative products they have produced and continue to roll out, they get it.

PYMNTS: What advice would you give a young innovator in this space, and why would you tell them to heed it?

MT: From an information security angle, the space is growing faster than ever. We are experiencing a shortage in qualified, innovative individuals. I would tell a young innovator in this space to keep an eye on IoT and other emerging technologies and additionally to really listen to what the customer wants. Find what it is you enjoy within this space, make it your mission, work hard and enjoy the ride.



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.

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