Philippines top target of financial-system hackers


THE Philippines is the top target of bank trojans in Asia-Pacific (APAC) from 2019 up to 2021, especially after the country ramped up the digitization of its financial system, data from an international cybersecurity and anti-virus provider showed.

Historical data from Kaspersky Security Network showed that, in terms of regional distribution, the Philippines logged the highest number of unique users attacked in the Asia-Pacific region at 22.26 percent of all banking Trojans discovered in the region.

The republic is followed by Bangladesh at 12.91 percent, Cambodia at 7.16 percent, Vietnam at 7.0 percent and Afghanistan at 7.02 percent.

Bank trojans work by either trying to obtain access credentials or one-time passwords to online bank accounts or manipulate the user and hijack control for a live online banking session.

“Banking trojans are one of the most dangerous species in the malware [malicious software] world,” Kaspersky said. “To put it simply, they are used to steal money from users’ bank accounts.”

Kaspersky Director of Global Research and Analysis Team for Asia-Pacific Vitaly Kamluk said the pandemic extended the use of this technology significantly further, particularly in emerging economies in Southeast Asia and South Asia.

The surge in reliance on technology for almost every financial activity—from opening bank accounts to online payment—has contributed to the rise in malware attacks as well.

Just last week, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported that 20.1 percent of monthly payments volume were done digitally by the end of 2020, improving from the 17 percent digital transactions in the first six months of 2020. 

The value of digital payments, likewise, substantially grew from 25 percent to 26.8 percent for the same period.

“We see that it will continue to pose a significant threat to both financial organizations and individuals here as we continue to see more users and startups dipping their feet into the digital payments field,” Kamluk said.

The security expert said individuals must regularly update their software and must pay attention to security alerts. Financial consumers must also be suspicious in communications and use complex passwords.

In the early months of the pandemic, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported losses last year amounted to P60.6 million or 54.5 percent of all total bank losses in March to May alone.

Broken down, 80.5 percent of all cyber incidents reported were credit card and Internet banking-related, accounting for 79 percent of total losses.

The BSP said the majority of these threats were in the form of phishing emails and malicious websites, some even disguised as Covid-response campaigns.

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