Security goes hand in hand with digitisation
How micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) around the world are helped to secure their services thanks to an innovative solution made in Moldova
Despite being the backbone of the national economy, many MSMEs are vulnerable in terms of cybersecurity, which if not taken seriously, can cause customers to get scammed and companies to lose sensitive information about their customers, like bank data — all of which can lead to customers losing trust in small companies and simply not procuring their goods or services in the first place.
This vulnerability exacerbates existing challenges: attracting and retaining qualified human resources, mobilising funds for maintenance and development and accessing external markets. That is why simple and affordable solutions to secure the services and products are essential.
Such a security solution was developed by Aliona Levca (MBA), General Manager at MGrinder.
We learned more about cybersecurity from Aliona and from Dr. J.R. Reagan, UNDP international cybersecurity expert, supporting the Government of the Republic of Moldova in developing the National Digital Transformation Strategy.
Aliona, how did you get into technology?
My journey to where I am now [a FinTech start-up] was long-winded and unconventional. Initially, I worked at a bank in Moldova, then I went to do business analysis in Moscow for a consulting company. I did not like living there and when I came back to Moldova, I had several jobs, from working for a bank, again, to opening my own strategic and financial consulting company in the HoReCa sector. In all these jobs, I gained knowledge about IT banking systems, financial transactions, business processes, their automation and much more.
In the meantime, I was also interested in FinTech, which is at the crossroads between technologies, IT, systems, and finance. And that is how I ended up in the IT field, and then I was invited to work at MGrinder — an IT company. It started with one thing and now I am the General Manager of an IT company.
How did you come to develop a FinTech solution for MSMEs? And what does it mean?
I got very passionate about cybersecurity. I think from a risk perspective, and cybersecurity is just that — thinking from a risk perspective. In general, we provide cybersecurity services — we assess cyber vulnerabilities of systems, IT infrastructure (networks) and products, we do Blackbox Pentesting and Ethical Hacking — a few types of vulnerability testing.
And now we are also developing our own vulnerability management tool for small and medium-sized companies — Pinky CyberSafe. I wish and I really believe that the solution we are now developing in partnership with several Internet service providers will change the cybersecurity field for the better.
How does your product work?
Half of recorded cyber-attacks are aimed at MSMEs. They have neither the knowledge nor the adequate budgets, nor access to cybersecurity experts; this has to do with the general shortage of such experts and with the fact that MSMEs have small budgets allocated for cybersecurity. Our solution solves the problem at the source. MSMEs cannot protect what they do not know in a way that is also unknown to them. So, our mission is to make cybersecurity accessible — simple and familiar to everyone. We use gaming elements and a guided UX (user experience) on our platform; we take every MSME and walk them through the basics of setting up a resilient cybersecurity program.
The final concept is quite complex, it includes many components and will be aimed at more advanced users, but we hope to grow and educate our users as the complexity of the platform increases.
You explained why you chose to develop a tool for MSMEs, but why did you choose to develop a digital solution targetting cybersecurity?
We constantly talk about digitising services, going online and making this transformation, but we do not actually understand the risks that come with digitisation. For example, we very rarely think about how complex the exchange of information is when we pay by card — what the whole data journey is, what happens behind it, how complicated it is and how much room is left for errors and vulnerabilities. That is what I first understood when I worked at the bank. And for many, unfortunately, cybersecurity is still something that they might worry about later. And that is a fundamental mistake.
Why did you submit for financing this solution at the innovation competition announced by UNDP Moldova?
We had had the idea for some time, but it had not developed into a clearly defined one and we kept stalling without making any progress. The competition gave us the necessary push, we called upon all the stakeholders within the company and focused on a strategic initiative that is likely to have a major impact on MSMEs not only on Moldova, but worldwide.
Aliona, how do you see Moldova and its digital products from a cybersecurity perspective?
We are a small country; we are a country with a high level of penetration of digitised services and we are a very good testing ground for such solutions. I really want us to make a change, first of all, here in Moldova and show that this is possible. To have services that are not only digital but also secure. Security goes hand in hand with digitisation.
Cybersecurity must be at the forefront of digital transformation
Dr. Reagan, in a broader sense, what should people (end users/consumers) of digital products know about cybersecurity?
Especially in post-COVID times, the increased reliance on digital infrastructure led to increasing numbers of large-scale cyber-attacks. As the Internet enters more houses with high-speed bandwidth, more users are utilizing the power of smartphones and more devices become digitally advanced. Because of this, cybersecurity must be at the forefront of digital transformation.
Familiarising end users/consumers with the building blocks of a successful cybersecurity framework and equipping them with the knowledge and tools to improve their awareness of cybersecurity risks is paramount. It’s all about the basics: data privacy and protection, understanding common security threats and learning how to detect and respond to the most frequent cyberattack attacks that present themselves every day.
And speaking of the new National Digital Transformation Strategy that you were working on, Dr. Reagan, how does it pledges for enhanced cybersecurity for Moldovan institutions and its citizens/residents?
Moldova has big plans ahead to create basic cybersecurity rules and institutions. The plans include drafting new legislation in line with European Union guidelines, improving security in government offices and launching a new national computer emergency response team, or CERT that would deal with cyberattacks on government and other essential services.