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Philippine Banks Urged Deployment of Anti-Cybercrime Law for Consumers

Cyber security requirements are increasing in tandem with the growing demand for fintech services. The expansion of trade, capital flows, and cyber linkages in Southeast Asia suggests that the region’s cyber threat landscape will become even more complex in the future, driving demand for solutions to its cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has once again urged the immediate establishment of an anti-cybercrime law to better protect financial consumers. In a statement issued over the weekend, the BSP asserted that it is eager to collaborate with the Senate on this legislative initiative. According to the BSP, Senate Bill No. 2380, also known as the “Bank Account, E-wallet, and Other Financial Accounts Regulation Act,” is a bill that recognises the need to protect the public from cybercriminals and syndicates who target bank accounts and e-wallets.

The legislation will enhance the country’s legal framework for financial consumer welfare and raise public awareness about cybersecurity. According to BSP, online transactions have increased significantly since the pandemic began, owing to mobility restrictions and lockdown.

If the bill is passed, agencies such as the Bank of the Philippines, the Department of Justice, the Department of Information and Communications Technology, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Philippine National Police will create an “Anti-Scam/Financial Fraud Roadmap” to educate and inform consumers about financial scams and how to avoid them, as well as to expedite regulation.

The bill also requires banks, non-bank financial institutions, and other relevant institutions to improve their online platforms, payment systems, and data security in addition to responding to cybercrime reports more quickly.

OpenGov Asia in an article reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has announced the establishment of a new office unit to oversee the fintech industry to promote financial inclusion and protect consumers and investors. Under its Corporate Governance and Finance Department (CGFD), the PhiliFintech Innovation Office (PIO) will focus on the regulation of the use of fintech or financial technology, in the Philippines.

The PIO, in collaboration with the appropriate agency department, will expedite the registration of new fintech companies. It will also be the first point of contact for existing fintech companies that have been operating without proper regulation or authorisation, or that will launch new fintech products. It is also responsible for documenting, analysing, and comprehending fintech business models and their potential impacts on the market and its participants. Through this, it will be able to formulate and implement regulatory responses aimed at protecting investors and market participants while also promoting the growth of fintech firms.

Around the “ber” months, the BSP would usually issue a number of advisories advising banks to be extra vigilant against cyber-attacks, primarily phishing. The BSP strongly recommends that banks make consumer assistance helpdesks or hotlines available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The BSP also wants increased surveillance on online banking systems and activities during holidays or long weekends, as well as timely blocking or suspending of accounts reported by clients or those flagged as fraudulent or suspicious, and ensuring that procedures for resolving disputes are completed in a timely manner.

Furthermore, experts have also urged the Philippines to review its cybersecurity programmes in light of the increasing frequency of ransomware attacks and other online crimes. According to a market and consumer data provider, ransomware attacks increased 625% to 304 million incidents in 2020, the highest level in four years.

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