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The SaaS-ification of business apps

Nikhil Bagalkotkar, presales head – Virtualization, Citrix India, outlines the preparedness banks and financial services institutions need to adopt in the digital world:

 Mohan: As a technocrat, what do you think are the major technology challenges that banking sector faces today? How different are these challenges for Indian banks?

Nikhil Bagalkotkar, presales head – Virtualization, Citrix India

Nikhil Bagalkotkar: In today’s day and age, the biggest transition facing banks is digitization. As Gartner rightly states, the move is typically characterized by creation of new digital designs founded on blurring of digital and physical worlds to enhance competency, and fulfil objectives faster and in a cost-effective fashion.

Banks and financial institutions’ inclination towards digitization has grown tremendously over the past couple of years because of device proliferation, improved internet connectivity and the maturing of big data and cloud. The end customers and employees have also evolved and increasingly become more vocal about their expectations. With the benefits of process automation becoming known, employees became the driving force for integrating of new technologies at an accelerated pace.

With this in the background, banks and financial institutions now need to identify an approach that optimizes the resultant delivery of digitization. Banks need to actively look at embedding digitization throughout existing channels, workflows, and process. The end-goal should remain the provision of a more personalized, timely experience in which customers can achieve more with less.

Banking is increasingly getting digitized and mobile. While the benefits and advantages are often discussed, there is scarce information on the risks involved and the possible threats to the security of the system. Can you discuss this point?

Organizations put more on the table with every advancement in technology. This necessitates them to ensure effective management of risks. With India moving aggressively towards a digital economy, volume of sensitive data exposed to threat agents has gone up exponentially. Additionally, with integration of new disruptive technologies like mobile, cloud, and emerging trends like IoT, our capability to protect confidential information is being continuously tested.

In this scenario, it is time the banking and finance industry embraces an alternate security paradigm where neither the endpoint devices nor the hardware infrastructure on which the applications run are owned by the organizations. Digital workspace companies are steadily moving away from endpoint centric security model which required organizations to deploy a host of security software on the endpoint. With secure digitization of workspaces, businesses’ most important asset – data, does not leave the organization. Applications and data are delivered seamlessly on any device the employee owns; regardless of whether the application runs in the datacenter or the cloud.

What could be the best strategy for banks to counter cyber attacks? Is there something beyond the traditional firewalls, AVS, penetration tests, etc.? How, according to you are Indian banks prepared in this regard?

By now, it is a well-known fact among security professionals that anti-virus solutions and network-based security measures, such as firewalls, alone are not enough to stop attacks ranging from ransomware to targeted espionage or sabotage operations. Disruptive technologies and trends make our security perimeters more porous. Security teams can no longer just put a big perimeter around buildings, or their network, or the devices they own and hope that the security requirements are met.  The workplace is mobile, and people are bringing their own devices and setting up their own service. Data is at rest, in motion, and in use across a complex matrix of endpoints, networks, apps, and storage. It is becoming a perimeter-less world, one that is dynamic, evolving, and we are under constant attack. That’s the environment that Digital India has to deal with.

The IT security market offers a wide range of solutions that go beyond these basic tools in their attempts to provide better prevention, defense, incident response, while minimizing the dwell-time window for attackers once they have managed to compromise an IT environment. Next Generation application and data virtualization platforms offer a tangible differentiator here. These platforms help organizations run applications in the datacenter, instead of running them on the employee’s PC. Only information relevant to the changing pixels on the screen are sent from the datacenter to the PC instead of sending the application data. Because of this setup, application information and data does not leave the datacenter, thereby, resolving endpoint security related challenges.

Besides having a comprehensive defense strategy, it is equally important to minimize the attack surface area. In this context, the most reasonable thing an organization can do is to virtualize and centralize its digital workspace as far as possible. Virtualization isolates threats, and allows IT to speedily tear down and rebuild any system affected by malicious software. Centralized image and data storage aids in rebuilding, without data loss. This, therefore, should go hand in hand with an enterprise-file sharing system that gives the IT department stringent control over file locations and access rights to company data, while allowing end users to share files securely.

It has been proved that cyber criminals can exploit vulnerabilities in so called strong systems like that of SWIFT. How can organizations like SWIFT get themselves prepared in this regard?

In the light of constant and increasingly sophisticated threats to high-value apps and data, including the SWIFT messaging platform, financial services’ organizations must continuously raise the bar for defense. Organizations like SWIFT need to actively look at creating a software-defined perimeter that combines secure access to apps and data with contextual control, visibility and behavior analytics across devices, networks, and clouds. By extending control beyond the traditional datacenter, IT can proactively secure, detect, and mitigate risk with intelligence applied to each unique scenario. A future-proofed security architecture is what will help institutions like SWIFT easily accommodate emerging requirements and challenges.

Users of SWIFT financial messaging platform now face a deadline of 31 December 2017, to achieve compliance with new core security standards designed to reduce financial, legal, regulatory, and reputational risks. These requirements are only the latest additions to a long list of security and risk management issues, from regulatory compliance, customer privacy and the ever-present threat of ransomware to insider threats and cyber-attacks of all kinds.

Citrix enables financial institutions to address complex security challenges and maintain the controls required under the latest SWIFT standards by focusing on creating a software-defined perimeter.

How is Citrix helping the banking sector globally and in India especially? Can you outline the solutions that are on offer?

For nearly three decades, we have been leading the market in secure delivery of apps and data. Our solutions allow for integration of virtualization, mobility, data sharing, and networking capabilities. Thereby, aiding businesses in their journey to become efficient digital workspaces.

Citrix solutions empower millions of employees in the financial services space to serve their customers effectively. Citrix’s desktop and application virtualization platforms enable brokers, tellers, and other employees to access any windows apps or even customer build legacy apps from anywhere and on any device. This, while ensuring the network requirements are lower than the traditional application access over WAN.

Citrix’s enterprise mobility stack delivers single-click access to mobile, web, SaaS and windows apps and data on employees’ personal or corporate device. The IT department benefits from end to end granular control on the mobile device and application security to protect corporate data without compromising employees’ personal apps and data. Consecutively, employees enjoy a fully integrated secure email, secure browser, secure tasks, workflow engine and data virtualization that ensure better than native experience.

Our Networking offering in the ADC and WAN virtualization space, help deliver secure branch banking of the future on today’s networks. IT can optimize, secure and control delivery of web applications and customer information over any network, including branch and mobile users, while ensuring availability of IT services in every location. Our ADC with its WAF capabilities provide secure front end for web properties like banking sites protecting your environment from malicious traffic, data breaches and other threats.

How would you analyze the technology induction in Indian banks, especially banks in the public sector? What are their strong points and weak points?

Digitization as a process is speedily gaining acceptance in several sectors. The BFSI sector, is now experiencing the need to adapt to protect themselves in the wildly changing malicious environment of cyberattacks. Banks are looking for innovative solutions in areas like networking that can help them effectively manage their sensitive data as well as smoothen everyday operational processes. Networks like WAN which are considerably lean come in handy here.

We are also witnessing a considerable shift towards the SaaS-ification of business apps. With this shift, banks are looking for solutions that can help them in the secure delivery and management of these applications. The recent attacks on the SWIFT application highlight the security loopholes of the medium that make carrying out financial transactions unsafe. To counter this concern, banks need to isolate and secure critical applications like SWIFT through methods like network separation.

Through exhaustive research and understanding of the market, we at Citrix are favorably aligned to offer these solutions to banks. With a common goal of enabling growth, we are working with banks to make the transition towards a digital environment a smooth and productive one.

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