Philippine banks boosting guards versus cyber threats

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A CRISIS MANAGEMENT and security consulting firm said the preparedness of the Philippine banking sector in dealing with cyber threats is “quickly changing” even as financial institutions remain the most vulnerable to these attacks.

In a press conference, Blackpanda Philippines Managing Director Kevin McCaffrey said the commitment of local banks to improve cybersecurity is “extreme.”

“[Their preparedness is] quickly changing. They’re in an immense amount of pressure. What have they done so far, they’ve done the best they can with what they’ve got. The stop-gap measures are in place,” Mr. McCaffrey said on Tuesday.

“I’m a customer just as much as anybody else in these financial institutions, and I feel that my data is safe.”

Mr. McCaffrey added that the security consulting firm is in discussions with a number of banks, some of which are forming consortia.


He said the components of these groups are usually one or two banks with eight or nine smaller lenders. The banks pool their resources to avail of the cybersecurity solutions provided by firms such as Blackpanda.

“I think that we have to look particularly at the smaller banks. It’s very difficult for them to keep up, so that’s why it’s important for these consortiums to band together because they don’t have the resources to capitalize on these solutions.”

Mr. McCaffrey said financial institutions remain the most vulnerable to cyber threats globally, noting that cyber attackers are shifting their focus to the Asia Pacific region (APAC).

“What’s happening is cyber threats are starting to transfer their focus away from America and Europe, where there’s big payout but there [are] also great risks because their defense is getting better. They’re shifting to APAC, where the defense are weak but the payout is also big. The next swing is going to be in APAC,” he said.

Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC), one of the country’s biggest banks, was involved in an $81-million cyber heist in February 2016, wherein unidentified hackers stole funds from Bangladesh Bank’s account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York using fraudulent orders on the SWIFT payments system.

RCBC was fined a record P1 billion by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in August 2016 for its failure to prevent movement of the stolen money through its system.

“What we’re finding our most traction right now especially in the Philippines is financial services for obvious reasons. The banks are under attack, and they continue to be under attack,” Blackpanda’s managing director said.

He added that aside from the banking sector, technology, healthcare, retail and hospitality, as well as telecommunications are the other industries most vulnerable to cyber risks.

Blackpanda is a Hong Kong-based security consulting firm that provides localized solutions across the physical, human and cyber domains. Its offices are located in Manila, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore.

Its insurance partner Jing An Special Risks has secured a license to operate in the Philippines to provide cover against cyber threats and terror acts for local business. — Karl Angelo N. Vidal