Frank Abagnale is a former con man turned security consultant and founder of Frank Abagnale & Associates.
What are some of the newest challenges when it comes to digital security?
In today’s digital world, there is a growing struggle to truly understand who the true person is behind each and every transaction. Originally, usernames and passwords were enough to create a “unique” identifier. However, as cybercrime becomes more sophisticated, machines can discover and replay static credentials faster than humans are able to remember them. Today, machines are even able to replay a person’s most personal biometric data — hence, the invention of second factor authentication. Initially powered by SMS codes, we now know that even SMS is not safe due to the ease at which fraudsters can transfer phone numbers. The world’s biggest challenge is to always stay one step ahead of the next attack.
How have you seen digital security change and evolve in your career?
The biggest change in digital security is the increasing sophistication of fraudsters. Their strong motivation drives them to seek out any weak links in access points and take advantage of them. Social engineering is still one of the most common ways to breach security — even digital security. However, if we put the right checks in place, no matter how much data is gathered, it will not be the key that opens the door to an attack.
How can families and businesses ensure that their information is safe?
Just like families and businesses protect their physical assets, they need to protect their digital assets. With cybercrime becoming more sophisticated every day, the ability to protect digital channels becomes more and more burdensome for people — more to remember, more to forget. However, they must continue to take precautions to ensure digital safety. I am an advisor to many technology companies, including a company called Trusona, which is creating secure identity-authentication technology with the user experience in mind. They are replacing cumbersome (and unsafe) static passwords with dynamic technology that enables a safer login directly from your mobile phone. This makes security easier for people and harder for cybercriminals to con their way in. I have long believed that passwords are for treehouses. Passwords are a 1964 technology developed when I was 16 years old. It is unbelievable that we are using it as a security tool for access in the year 2018.
What new developments in digital security are you excited to see in the next ten years?
I am looking forward to digital security that becomes transparent to the user and impenetrable by the cybercriminal. With today’s advances in technology and recognition of vulnerabilities, I see a future where people are who they say they are.