BANKS need to spend on ramping up cybersecurity as online transactions climb. — UNSPLASH.COM

LENDERS NEED to boost spending to strengthen cybersecurity with digital transactions on the rise amid quarantine measures, a bank official said.

“When you do digital banking, it’s imperative that you put a commensurate amount of security in the way to ensure this secure online experience of our customer,” Jose Paulo G. Rufo, chief information security officer and vice-president at UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc., said in an online briefing on Wednesday.

Mr. Rufo said they have “invested a lot” on technology as well as on educating consumers on proper cybersecurity “hygiene,” but said he could not disclose figures as they are confidential.

Meanwhile, James P. Ileto, UnionBank vice-president of public relations, said they saw “at least 50% growth in digital transactions and a fivefold increase in digital account openings during the pandemic.”

Amid the surge in transactions, Mr. Rufo said they also observed a spike in phishing activities.

“When the lockdown started, they just started to grow (phishing incidents). It just grew almost on a day-to-day basis and we had consumers seeing and some of them unfortunately being victimized,” he said, noting some of these schemes pretend to be charity drives for virus response.

Mr. Rufo said the bank employs a 24/7 Integrated Operation Center that monitors internet protocol and security. He added they have employees focused on using blockchain to secure customer data and transactions and address cyber fraud incidents.

He urged clients to practice “cyber hygiene” in their financial transactions and refrain from using familiar words or names of relatives as passwords to guard against cyber attacks.

The Aboitiz-led lender’s net income increased 22% year on year to P2.641 billion in the first quarter, supported by better revenues and higher net interest income.

UnionBank’s shares closed unchanged at P53 apiece on Wednesday. — L.W.T. Noble