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Philippine Bill Introduced to Combat Cybercrimes in the Finance Sectors

As banks embark on the journey of cloud and digital transformation, cybercriminals have taken advantage of the pandemic to target remote, distracted, and vulnerable workers through a new digital work-from-home operating model.

The head of the Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) has warned that cybercrime is a major concern for lenders as the country’s banking industry rapidly digitises. According to the Philippines Central Bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), 98.4% of reports on crimes and losses filed by banks from March 15 to May 18, 2020, alone were online in nature and amounted to a total loss of P60.6 million. The Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-Cybercrime Group, reported a 37% increase in online scams from March to September 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

With this, a Philippine senator has introduced new legislation to combat new cybercrimes such as skimming and phishing, which have reached an all-time high since most transactions have shifted online during the pandemic. The “Bank Account, E-wallet, and Other Financial Accounts Regulation Act,” also known as Senate Bill No. 2380, aims to promote and maintain a stable and efficient financial system while also recognising the need to protect the public from cybercriminals and syndicates that target bank accounts and e-wallets.

Digital platforms made it possible to keep our economy going, but it has also become an opportunity for crime to thrive. That is why we must put up the proper safeguards that will not only avoid criminal activity but also unlock the potential of digital platforms as well.

–  Chairperson of the Senate committee on banks, financial institutions, and currencies

The measure aims to ensure that the hard-earned money of the public is kept safe and that public trust and confidence in the nation’s financial system are maintained as it continues to innovate and traverse through cyberspace, said the senator.

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

The bill also requires banks, non-bank financial institutions, and other relevant institutions to not only respond to cybercrime reports more quickly, but also to enhance their online platforms, payment systems, and data security.

OpenGov Asia earlier reported that a joint statement issued by the Philippines business firm says the impact of cybercrime in the country is expected to grow further. Globally, it is expected to reach $6 trillion in 2021 and up to $10.5 trillion annually by 2025 if businesses and governments do not take proactive measures on this issue soon.

About 42% of the firms surveyed in the Philippines reported that they were hit by ransomware in 2020, which is an increase from 30% in 2019. Of these, 76% suffered data encryption, which means the hackers locked their databases until their demands were fulfilled. The number is said to be higher than the global average of 54%.

A UK-based cybersecurity firm found that Philippine organisations have spent an average of $820,000 (approximately P40 million) to recover from these attacks – costs that cover the ransom paid, and the costs incurred by the downtime. The cost is lower than the global average of $1.85 million. The global average is $170,404, with $3.2 million being the highest recorded in the survey.

Cybercrime is a major concern for businesses of all sizes, from small start-ups to large multinational corporations. With so many high-profile breaches in the last decade, the threat is as visible as it is constant. Furthermore, the COVID-19 has aided in increasing reliance on digital channels, but it has also attracted bad actors as online scams have grown in popularity.

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