Big data helps us see more when it comes to cyber security

Trust is the foundation for success in the financial services industry. Not only do our customers trust banks with their money – they trust us with their information. 

" The collection and analysis of data is used to build a picture of impossibly small or mind-bogglingly distant objects."
Scott Collary, Chief information officer, ANZ

Given the increasing number and sophistication of cyberattacks on major institutions – and efforts to defraud customers - it is incumbent upon banks to lead the way in providing the highest levels of protection for the customers who place their trust in us.

One of the many interesting applications for big data is the development of sophisticated, predictive technology. Today we can interact with and meaningfully analyse vast amounts of customer data and in doing so we learn about customer behaviours - which in turn means we’re more likely to pick up on irregular behaviours.

The early identification of threats greatly reduces the latency necessarily a feature of any non-predictive approach – that is, our efforts are directed to reducing the time it takes to identify when an attack has taken place and the time it takes for us to respond.

A simple example already in use is location-based data. Where an Australian customer uses a credit card to pay for a cab ride in Melbourne minutes after they’ve bought an expensive leather handbag at a store in Macau, we probably want to check in with them. Usually in such scenarios the customer is very happy we did.


The approach is akin to the way electron microscopes and radio telescopes use information to ‘see’ well beyond the visible spectrum. The collection and analysis of data is used to build a picture of impossibly small or mind-bogglingly distant objects.  

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Consider for a moment how different this approach is when compared with how banks and other financial organisations have, throughout most of history, relied on a customer’s signature to establish their identity. Sure, for fans of history (and Game of Thrones) there was also the option of a wax seal and royal or house sigil.

Over time, we’ve added additional layers, such as photos for passports, passwords and encryption (of course, the latter two predate computing by a long way).

With the advent of computing banking has developed additional defences and firewall, antivirus and anti-malware protection have continued to provide critical first line defence. 

And, we’ve continued to rely on customers’ signatures; the advances and easy availability of new biometrics technology mean we’ve moved quickly to incorpoate these as additional layers of protection.

Together with other industries and sectors, financial services is committed to working together and sharing real-time information as another way to foil fraudsters, speed up our responses when we are attacked and ensure information remains in the right hands.

Scott Collary is ANZ’s chief information officer.

This article makes reference to portions of his Big Data and Cyber Security presentation at the Crawford Australian Leadership Forum Policy Briefing Breakfast in June.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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