Rush to digitize amid pandemic amps up data protection concerns
Cyber-crime fears hold some firms back from adapting to new normal
11 Sep 2020 | Darryl Yu

Innovate or die. That phrase more than ever has never been so true as countless businesses around the world grapple with the uncertainty brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. Unable to rely on traditional business models based on physical interaction, many businesses are now looking online for new opportunities.

Whether it be opening an e-commerce portal or implementing newer forms of payments like mobile wallets, companies are looking at adapting to the new world of digital, but with that comes a world of cyber-threats.

The sophistication of cyber-criminals is evolving, especially in their use of money mules, front companies, and cryptocurrencies to siphon off funds from the financial industry, according to a recent report by Swift, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, and BAE Systems.

Cyber-criminals use a variety of tools to infiltrate financial firms or illegally obtain user data, with most relying on cyber-squatting and phishing, a practice in which they pretend to be popular websites and wait for users to input sensitive data.  And online there are around 13,857 registered squatting domains – sites pretending to be popular websites – with the top abused domains being PayPal and Apple, according to cyber-security firm Palo Alto Networks.

In places such as Hong Kong, phishing has likewise become a problem. In July 2020, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the city’s de facto central bank, released cyber-crime data revealing that 61% of fraudulent incidents involved fake websites, in combination with phishing e-mails.

The risky prospects of data breaches and payment fraud have been the main deterrents preventing businesses from embracing new digital processes. Concerns over cyber-security and the safeguarding of sensitive information, according to Asset Benchmark Research’s Treasury Review 2020, are the top reasons for firms not adopting digital solutions.

Hopes of combating such fears rely on better co-ordination between the different eco-system players to ensure that all parties are aware of industry best practices. Most of those companies that have adopted new digital solutions, according to Treasury Review 2020 data, have established a well-controlled environment using tokens and two-factor authorization to safeguard their financial data.

“The threat posed by cyber-attacks to the financial sector has never been greater,” says Brett Lancaster, head of customer security at Swift. “Attackers are well-resourced, constantly evolving their modus operandi and using untraceable money laundering techniques.”

To combat the problem, Lancaster urges companies to increase their information sharing, tighten their due diligence requirements, and invest smartly in maintaining systems to strengthen their defences.

In a time when washing your hands is paramount in combating Covid-19, one shouldn’t forget the importance of cyber-hygiene in protecting your business. 

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