PHILIPPINE BANKS are ramping up their spending on cybersecurity as threat actors target financial consumers, industry officials said.

“The banks are investing so much, especially because we are the prime targets right now,”Land Bank of the Philippines Chief Information Technology Security Officer and Information Security Officers Group President Archieval B. Tolentino during a panel discussion at the 2nd Management Association of the Philippines ICT Summit on Wednesday.

Mr. Tolentino said the targets of threats are not necessarily the banks themselves but “customers who are the low-hanging fruit in the ecosystem of cybersecurity.”

According to cybersecurity firm Kaspersky, the Philippines had the highest number of financial-related phishing attempts on business devices in 2023 in the Southeast Asian region with 163,279 incidents. Financial phishing refers to fraudulent resources related to banking, payment systems, and digital shops.

Mr. Tolentino cited an incident where a cybercriminal created a fake Facebook page claiming that a bank was giving away financial assistance and requiring victims to send money to receive it.

“As for the question of our income, there’s a significant impact because we have to follow the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ regulations, in order to… secure the bank,” he said.

Nilo C. Zantua, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. senior vice-president, chief technology officer, and Information Technology Shared Services Group head, said the increase in online banking amid the pandemic also increased the importance of cybersecurity.

“We saw that in 2020, and 2021, it grew by sevenfold. Imagine, we were expanding our digital footprint…,” he said at the same panel.

Asked about budgeting for cybersecurity, he said there has to be a right policy, plan, and strategy to ensure that the business understands the threats and risks, including regulatory and financial.

“In my case, we are fortunate that the board of directors as well as the senior management executive committee is fully supportive of the cybersecurity strategy and plan,” Mr. Zantua said.

Investing in cybersecurity is imperative as the Philippine economy moves into the digital space where more banking transactions are happening, First Metro Investment Corp. Head of Research Cristina S. Ulang said in a Viber message on Thursday.

“As volumes grow, the risk and opportunity balance will swing to either negative (prone to loss/theft/wastage) or positive (gainful opportunities). It is the latter that robust cybersecurity architecture among banks should support and protect,” Ms. Ulang added.

Digital Pinoys National Campaigner Ronald B. Gustilo said increased spending for cybersecurity by banking institutions gives customers the assurance that their transactions are safe.

“Banking institutions should ensure that aside from technology, they should also hire individuals that are competent and knowledgeable with existing and emerging threats in cyberspace,” Mr. Gustilo said in a Viber message on Thursday. — Aubrey Rose A. Inosante