Mastercard Says AI Key In Managing IoT Data Deluge — And Thwarting Cyberfraud

Data, data everywhere – accumulating exponentially, as we have gone increasingly digital.

A fact to file away under “mind-boggling stats:” We as humans create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. A  quintillion is a million trillion. That’s a lot of web pages, texts, posts, media streams, selfies and TikTok dances. And payments, too, of course.

Data is the means through which fraudsters craft their attacks. And data, too, is a valuable resource that, as Mastercard Executive Vice President Laura Quevedo told Karen Webster, can be used to not only beat the bad guys at their own game, but to also improve the customer’s transactional journey as devices talk to one another, as the Internet of Things (IoT) takes shape.

Call it the intersection of digital and data security — and only advanced technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI), can help firms like Mastercard meet consumer expectations while keeping them safe.

That smooth and streamlined customer experience is critical because the bright lines that have separated digital from physical commerce and have divided activities like banking, payments and getting food delivered … well, those bright lines have faded.

Quevedo noted that the past year has seen an unprecedented migration of payments and interactions that have moved online (even though, of course, we were already moving online pre-COVID-19) — and, in fact, digital interactions have been the conduit for all interactions in life. We may have been reluctant to live life on Zoom or attach ourselves to Amazon as our platform for getting all manner of things delivered.

But as the end of the pandemic is in sight, and even as vaccines are being rolled out, the great digital shift “will really become the norm,” as Quevedo said. That contention is borne out by stats from the payments network, where, as she recounted, the company found that there had been an additional $900 billion spent, globally, on retail eCommerce in 2020 — and that one out of every $5 spent at retail was via eCommerce.

There’s a clear roadmap ahead, too, for the ways we pay, noted Quevedo. A growing number of interactions will take place across about 50 billion IoT-connected devices that will be out in the field by 2025.

The surge in digital connections between consumers, businesses and governments means that data will grow in waves, and the relationships between all of those stakeholders will become increasingly complex, shifting between voice speakers, smartphones and tablets, wearables and smart TVs.

“Managing what seems like an infinite amount of data is really going to be challenging and can be quite overwhelming,” said Quevedo.

And no matter the use case or setting, and whether the interaction is fleeting or involved, the consumer expectations will be uniform — they may not know what’s happening behind the scenes, but they expect to be safe.

Granularity And Speed 

There’s an advantage to the data deluge, maintained Quevedo: “The more data that’s available, the granularity, the speed, the accuracy of AI-driven decisions and processes is infinitely increased,” she said. What it would take humans minutes, months or years to do can be done in milliseconds with the power of AI.

As Quevedo said, with a nod to sheer volume, Mastercard scores billions of transactions every month for thousands of customers, globally detecting and preventing more than $20 billion in cyberfraud last year. Connected intelligence, coupled with a multi-layered approach to security, improves the chances of detecting threats.

AI can find those commonalities and identify how these attacks are forming, what precedes an attack and trends hidden across transactions and across networks, Quevedo explained.

“With AI at the core, we can extend this connected intelligence to look at transaction ‘sets’ that go across cards, as well as bank account networks via the open banking platforms, and even across the Internet of Things,” she noted.

The company has been leveraging AI internally, too, to optimize business processes, simplify routing over the company’s network, manage support and aid in financial forecasting.

AI, as Webster noted, is not without its critics – or without some suspicions on the part of consumers. It’s critical to build trust that emerging technologies are being used responsibly, with the end benefit of the consumer in mind, said Quevedo. Mastercard has been acutely focused on promoting transparency and fostering collaboration through, for example, the Cyber & Risk Summit.

“AI is absolutely going to be the tool for the future, and it’s up to everyone — like the leaders at the summit — to come together and help guide the technology and the development and foster positive change to help instill that trust in AI,” said Quevedo.