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Modern City

july 31, 2019

Last week was a big week for cannabis in the US. The Senate committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing considering the content of the SAFE Banking Act and the STATES Act. The SAFE Banking Act seeks to provide safe harbor for financial institutions serving state legal cannabis businesses. The STATES Act goes even further in allowing the states the authority to make decisions around cannabis and removing cannabis from the schedule I classification.

August 2017

"...“ ere’s a generation of young people who aren’t as concerned about privacy as older people, as they already chose to give up their privacy online and do sel es,” Knie says. “ eir attitude is ‘my biometrics are already out there, and I put them there.’ So barriers against biometric ID are beginning to disappear in Europe and North America.” ..."

July 11 2017

In the past day or two I’ve received a few alarming voicemails claiming potential legal actions and even threatening that the police will come to arrest me. Some claimed to be from the IRS, others were more vague. Anyone’s initial reaction is great concern – no one wants to be subject of a mysterious debt collection, a criminal investigation, or potential arrest. These are scams, plain and simple.

June 26, 2017

"In the past I've written in other venues I’ve written a good bit about banking marijuana related businesses (MRBs) – but that was in the past, well before the 2016 election in the US."

June 16, 2017

"There have been a number of vendors getting in to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to address some of the tedious aspects of AML compliance. As many know, even the best AML compliance systems tend to produce large numbers of false positives that analysts must review and clear. Large backlogs can lead to enforcement actions and generally lead to high operational costs...." - Digital Currency Exchanges Still Struggle for Licensing, Banking Services

May 11, 2017

"....Bitcoin exchanges, wallet providers and others have generally made a compliance official one of their first hires, and deployed strict know-your-customer protocols, according to Ben Knieff, a New York-based financial crimes consultant. Firms have been collecting details about their customers, including a Tax ID number and bank account verification, to confirm where their funds are headed. One common procedure in the industry is to require that customers take a “selfie” with a driver’s license held in the same photo to establish the document’s veracity....."

January 26, 2017


Among consumers, usage of physical security tokens may be largely confined to computer geeks. But if Facebook brings these devices to a wider consumer audience, demand for such features may pick up. People using public wi-fi in places like coffee shops could then browse sensitive information — such as personal banking data — without fear of it falling into the wrong hands.

"Using hardware tokens is nothing new, but this could bring it to a mainstream consumer base," said Ben Knieff, a senior analyst with Aite Group....."

January 5, 2017

2016 was marked by geopolitical turmoil, with contentious and polarizing political proceedings in the United States and Europe, a building isolationist sentiment around the globe, and continued escalation of conflicts in the Middle East.......

January 4, 2017

"...Ben Knieff, senior analyst with AITE Group, believes initial applications will fill simple roles—such as telling users where to find the nearest ATM or answering whether the nearest branch is open...."

December 15, 2016

"...Because people are more inclined to make donations to charities during the holidays, consumers need to be extra cautious about how they make them, says Ben Knieff, senior research analyst at research firm Aite Group...."

November 30, 2016

Video - panel discussion

November 14, 2016

"....Ben Knieff, a Senior Research Analyst at US-based Aite Group, says that US law enforcement agencies aren’t yet ready to accept digital forms of ID such as driver’s licenses and car insurance documents. “Digital ID isn’t yet well accepted, and there are a lot of questions about what forms of digital information is admissible in court and how that information is obtained,” he says....."

November 11, 2016


The truth is, we really don't know much about how he'll dismantle Dodd-Frank, or what he would put in its place, says Ben Knieff, a senior research analyst at Aite Group.

"In all honesty, your guess is as good as mine," Knieff says. "From a policy perspective, it's not clear. We have some public statements, we have some ideas, but many of them are impractical."

Kneiff isn't even sure Trump is ready to follow through on his promise to kill off Dodd-Frank.

"I don't think that it's possible to completely roll back Dodd-Frank," Knieff says. "I think there are too many strong consumer protections. I think the CFPB, for all the flaws it might have, is a valuable institution for the American people."...."

October 13, 2016

"Through the advancements in mobile phone technology, consumers have come to embrace biometrics and are beginning to accept that their biometrics are unlikely to be stolen or compromised. Biometrics firms are moving past just fingerprints and facial recognition and are looking into voice, heart rhythms, iris and eye vein scanning, and many more. The time has come for financial institutions to strongly consider biometric authentication methods in a variety of contexts......"

October 19, 2016

"I had the pleasure to speak at the Digital Identity Summit hosted by ThreatMetrix last week in Los Angeles, California. There were a number of great sessions representing banking/financial services, e-commerce, payment service providers (PSPs), and other service providers. It was really interesting to observe similar use cases being applied to very different businesses with similar challenges......"

October 6, 2016

"With data breaches reported nearly daily, it is no stretch to think pretty much everyone’s card information has been compromised at some point. Criminals typically use only a fraction of stolen card information, but this week, I was one of the (un)lucky ones to have my card compromised and used......"

October 5 2016

"....“Right now, I think we’re in the early to middle phase of an investment cycle, which means there are many opportunities for many different organizations to find a niche and expand on that nice,” said Ben Knieff, a senior analyst with the Aite Group who specializes in financial crimes....."

September 19, 2016

"As usual, last week’s Finovate event offered a great mix of innovation across many areas of financial services. Anyone who has attended knows it is an amazing fire hose of content and smart people. Having attended almost every year since the first conference (this year’s event was the 10-year anniversary) it is great to see how the event has expanded in both geography and attendance......."

Security Magazine - Nearly 1 in 3 Consumers Victimized by Card Fraud

August 23, 2016

“Card fraud rates are on the rise in the majority of countries included in the survey,” said Ben Knieff, senior research analyst, Aite Group. “The data shows that consumer education and customer service remain a challenge for financial institutions globally, as risky behavior has a direct correlation to experiencing fraud.”

August 16, 2016

"....“Criminals realize EMV’s coming to the U.S. and want to skim while they can,” says Knieff. “You can skim mag-stripe data off EMV cards, but it’s extremely difficult, although technically feasible, to skim card data from EMV chips. Criminals can’t skim from EMV chips on a scale that would be profitable.” ...."

August 3, 2016

"...“Voice authentication is a very useful and generally ubiquitous capability through smartphones but also feature phones and landlines,” said Ben Knieff, a senior analyst at Aite Group. “There are many authentication methods, but voice is one of the most widespread and natural to use with diverse devices and communication systems.”..."

August 1, 2016


Whenever possible, stick to money transfer services provided by your bank, advises Ben Knieff, senior analyst at research company Aite Group

“Some of the best mobile payment [options] come from the bank apps themselves and utilize a similar level of security as online banking,” he says. But while these are some of the safest means to send money, a common drawback is that both the sender and recipient need to have accounts with the financial provider....."

July 20, 2016

"...The path laid out by the FFIEC is less prescriptive than it was in the past, according to Ben Knieff, Senior Analyst at Aite Group, instead becoming more risk-base oriented. Knieff says “this is a good thing and enables institutions and vendors to focus on the actual results rather than often ineffective details of prescriptive regulation.” ..."

June 29, 2016

"...Fraud alerts are nothing new. For decades, banks have called consumers to check on suspicious activity, but phone calls are time consuming and expensive. Times have changed, too: People today are less likely to answer their phones, but sending a fraud or other alert via text or push notification often can get an immediate response.
“Purchase alerts are a better customer experience than the phone calls,” says Ben Knieff, a senior analyst with Aite Group, a financial industry research company. “And it ends up reducing costs in the call center.”
Visa has found that alert programs have led to a 40 percent decline in subsequent fraud losses...."

June 23, 2016

"I had the opportunity to be on a panel at an event hosted by IBM in New York last week focused on emerging fraud issues. Participants ranged from fraud managers at financial institutions to data scientists from various vendors. It was a fantastically open and interactive dialogue that brought up many issues, none of which we easily resolved. One of the really interesting conversations was around the use of biometrics and their impacts on privacy....."

June 14, 2016

"...But other factors loom, as well, including overseas influences. “In recent months, I’ve been hearing a lot about Bitcoin being used to evade currency controls in places like China, and it is certainly an effective method,” Ben Knieff, a senior analyst at Aite Group who follows Bitcoin, tells Digital Transactions News in an email message. “I’ve heard, though unconfirmed, that over 60% of income is held by Chinese doing just this, which will certainly drive prices up.”..."

June 2, 1016

"..."Pretty much all sectors, private, public and consumer, are realizing how insecure email is generally," said Ben Knieff, senior research analyst at Aite Group. "It wasn't designed from the ground up with security in mind, so we shouldn't count on email as a reliable source. It's so easy to spoof, so easy to phish."..."

May 31, 2016


Most of the payment systems and capabilities available in the U.S. today were not built with security in mind, notes Ben Knieff, an analyst at consultancy Aite. 

"Security has often been bolted on over time," Knieff says. "Institutions are not operationally ready for real-time payments. The operational demands for managing real-time payments are quite a bit different than what most financial institutions are accustomed to. It can be easy to embrace new technology conceptually, but actually operationalizing it is a whole different task."

May 16, 2016

"...Examiners likely will immediately start using this guidance during their IT assessments, says Ben Knieff, a financial fraud analyst at the consultancy Aite. "Financial institutions should take a look at their risk assessments and controls and compare how they line up against this most recent guidance," he says...."

May 2, 2016

"...To be sure, Bitcoin remains subject to sometimes wild price swings. “Bitcoin has been a volatile currency from the start, with lots of speculation and in many senses unfounded value,” warns Ben Knieff, a senior analyst at Aite Group, Boston, in an email message. But despite that volatility, it has climbed steadily upward, in part because of increasing interest in its underlying technology, the blockchain...."

May 2, 2016


Ben Knieff, a senior analyst at the consultancy Aite, says malware attacks often migrate to the U.S. as hackers' techniques evolve.

"Attackers will test their malware in smaller markets first - low amount of attention and victims - and refine it in stages," he says. "It might start in Belgium or the Netherlands, then graduate to the U.K. or Germany before heading to the U.S."..."

March 24, 2016

To verify online purchases, most retailers are taking a "layered approach" that combines the efforts of card networks, card issuers and even outside companies to provide information that can flag suspicious purchases, says Ben Knieff, a senior research analyst with Aite Group who specializes in cybercrime.
"The hope is that through all those layers, one of the layers is going to catch the bad guy," Knieff says...."

March 9, 2016

"..."What the blockchain offers is an ability to verify and store any variety of assets, and identity is potentially one of those assets," Knieff says in an interview with Information Security Media Group at RSA Conference 2016. "The notion would be that one party could go through the identity verification and proofing process, enter that into the blockchain, and then other parties could rely on it. You could think of it as a passport or a driver's license that sits on the blockchain and identifies you."..."

March 7, 2016

But with the rise of cybercrime as a service, Aite Group senior analyst Ben Knieff said it's increasingly simple for attackers to spoof telephone numbers and launch targeted social engineering attacks that can fool even cautious users.
"There's a Russian site where they literally advertise that they have people who can speak in six different languages, sound native and are available 24/7," Knieff said. "The criminal economy has become more and more specialized in terms of the fact that you don't need to do all the work; you can just pay somebody to help you."..."

February 27, 2016

"..."Even if you steal the information, it becomes very difficult to use it. You'd get a long string of letters and numbers that can't do anything," explains Ben Knieff, senior analyst for retail banking at Aite Group, an independent research and advisory firm that specializes in financial services...."

February 4, 2016

"...According to financial crimes specialist Ben Knieff of Outside Look Inc., one of the most powerful tools for identity thieves is social networks. "Many, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, offer options to view your profile as the public or as friends would see it," he says. "You should check that there is as little information open to the public as possible for long lost friends and business contacts to reach you."..."

January 26, 2016

"Previous posts in this series looked at the FinCEN guidance’s potential impact to institutions serving marijuana-based businesses. The first took a high-level view of how the guidance impacts institutions and the decisions that need to be made. The second was a deeper look at what the guidance really says and how it impacts institutions in CDD, then we moved on to transaction monitoring and regulatory filing......"

January 19, 2016

"The FinCEN guidance provides substantial clarification around filing SARs and CTRs for marijuana-based businesses. In essence, the guidance states institutions should file SARs and CTRs as if the customer is an illegal business, though not necessarily terminate the account. This could easily cause some confusion, since this deviates from the normal practices; in most cases, an entity known to be operating illegally would be terminated along with the SAR filing...."

January 14, 2016

"Most organizations have rather mature and effective transaction monitoring systems in place, but they may not be ready for these new types of businesses and their transaction patterns. For example, with a marijuana dispensary or retailer, many of their customers choose to pay in cash, which will result in large daily cash deposits (more on this later). Transaction monitoring systems will need to accommodate differences in behavior with this sort of business.....

January 12, 2016

"In a previous post we looked at some of the challenges posed by the interplay between state and federal laws and the guidance that impacts how banks could service marijuana business that are legal at the state level but not at the federal level. Both the New York Times and the BBC have published pieces about these businesses’ challenges in obtaining banking services because financial institutions are hesitant to service them. Here we look at some more specific examples of what is in the guidance and how an institution could potentially serve this customer segment while managing the risk. The Wall Street Journal recently profiled a Washington-based business specifically focused on offering marijuana-based businesses with compliance services, indicating there is a solid business opportunity to provide a variety of compliance and banking services in this segment.....

January 5, 2016

"The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released guidance for financial institutions on servicing marijuana-related businesses in early 2015. While no doubt appreciated by the banking community, it may not make financial institutions more confident in servicing these businesses. The New York Times did a nice article on the guidance, explaining what it means for banks and the government’s perspective, but the situation should be broken down in more detail specifically for banks and credit unions. I won’t debate the question of whether legalization is good or bad, but since it is here in some form in 20 states and Washington, DC, financial institutions need to deal with it...."

January 5, 2016

"...“It is an interesting concept weaving together some different components of making Bitcoin more accessible to consumers combined with a celebrity brand could potentially help improve adoption,” said Ben Knieff, senior analyst at Aite Group. “That said, any given celebrity will draw only so much of an audience, which could limit the reach of such an approach...."

December 11, 2015

Video Interview

October 22, 2015

"....Knieff of Aite Group sees the most value in ubiquity across devices. "Ubiquity is very attractive, especially in markets like Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, where a lot of folks are using feature phones and not smartphones," he says....."

September 24, 2015

"Conference season kicked off with a bang at Finovate Fall 2015. This show has grown from a small room in San Francisco to multiple events occurring across three continents and hosting thousands of attendees and hundreds of innovative firms. As in previous years, this year saw a variety of interesting solutions across a number of financial services needs, as well as some clear themes...."

September 21, 2015

"This last week I received a Coin card in the mail after having supported the effort way back in November 2013. It arrived about a year after the planned rollout, which was the summer of 2014. What is a year’s difference between friends? Here are a couple of thoughts on where this type of technology could go:...

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