Digital banking needs beefed-up security to preserve trust

Police’s statistics show that Malaysians suffer losses amounting to about RM2.23b on cybercrime frauds since 2017


QUESTIONS over cybersecurity have become even more critical for digital banking as people are pushed to adopt digital alternatives in banking transactions since the pandemic in 2020.

Statistics from the Commercial Crime Investigation Department at Royal Malaysia Police stated that Malaysians suffered losses amounting to about RM2.23 billion on cybercrime frauds since 2017.

CyberSecurity Malaysia CEO Datuk Dr Amiruddin Abdul Wahab said the financial sector is constantly under cyberattack globally — with daily attempts to steal money, crash computer systems and disrupt capital markets.

“It is among the most vulnerable to cybercrimes because of the vast amount of money and valuable data that banks and investment firms process each day,” said Amiruddin in an email reply to The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

However, he said this does not mean that the financial sector is not safe as banks and financial organisations rely on various security measures such as data encryption to protect their customers.

“In Malaysia, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) took various initiatives to mitigate cyber threats to the financial sector. They developed guidelines and best practices for the banking industry to address cybersecurity incidents,” he noted.

Nevertheless, Amiruddin expects that the adversaries will continuously impersonate and leverage financial aid services through various scams to gain money.

“Their modus operandi constantly evolved to avoid being caught and they incorporate malware in their strategies via phishing, spear-phishing as well as social engineering,” he said.

Therefore, it is critical to build trust to boost the adoption of Internet banking among online customers.

According to him, the level of trust is determined by calculating the weight of profits and the intended relationship between them.

“To measure the level of confidence among the public in digital banking, financial institutions need to conduct a survey or study about their digital banking services.

“They need to come out with a comparative study about profit and number of users who still use their digital banking services after any issue and glitches involving their digital banking services,” he added.

He stressed that the public need to be educated on the best practices of online banking, hence, continuous awareness programmes are essential for various entities in the financial sector.

Global cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab recently revealed that Malaysia has seen a 266% spike in web threats since 2017.

Based on Kaspersky’s data, there was a dip in web threats detections in 2019, before climbing to 33% in 2020 and another additional 26% in 2021.

Overall, Kaspersky’s products have blocked more than 61 million Internet-borne malwares against Kaspersky users in Malaysia last year. This is over 12 million more than the detections in 2020.

Web threats are attacks done via browsers to spread malicious programmes. Cybercriminals use two methods to penetrate the systems — exploiting vulnerabilities in browsers and the plug-ins or drive-by download, and social engineering, which requires the user participation, that the cybercriminals make the victims believe that they are downloading a legitimate programme.

On the other hand, Bank Islam chief economist Dr Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid views digitalisation as an unstoppable force as it could bring to the society in respect to productivity level and knowledge transfer.

“However, it also comes with a price as cybersecurity has become a pressing issue given the potential loss to the economy as well as to the public and corporations at large.

“If not handled well, it might lead to severe trust deficits,” Mohd Afzanizam told TMR.

Thus, he said the government and private corporation would need to invest in cybersecurity to mitigate the risks.

“Along the way, it may also create demand for a highly-skilled workforce as dealing with cyber threats requires a vast knowledge in mathematics and sciences,” he said.

Meanwhile, BNM recently said that they are accelerating the growth of fintech, mainly Islamic fintech for trade-related solutions, alternative finance, social finance and sustainable finance.

The central bank also reassured that they will put in place safeguards to manage risks to the system, such as those related to cybersecurity.