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MAPping the Future

It’s time for Juan to join the global digital economy

Digital is disrupting all industries across the globe. We saw that disruption when people scrambled to go online to shop, transfer money and pay bills online when the lockdowns came.

As part of the global supply chain, the Philippines saw the rise in this digital trend as well. A report released in October 2020 by the World Bank and the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) titled, “A Better Normal Under COVID-19: Digitalizing the Philippine Economy Now”, described how digitalization did wonders.

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These technologies “such as digital payments, e-commerce, telemedicine and online education, is rising in the Philippines and has helped individuals, businesses and the government cope with social distancing measures, ensure business continuity and deliver public services during the pandemic.”

And yet, as local industries aim for sustained recovery amid the pandemic, the country still needs to take some crucial steps in order to open up new vistas of possibility in a digital economy.

 These steps include pushing for the national ID system, national policy on paperless transactions, mandatory registration of mobile phones and an alignment of the country’s privacy and cybersecurity policy.

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The only way for us to turn a slowing economy to an active e-commerce nation is to continuously encourage Filipinos to adapt to digital ways of living, which will allow industries and our economy to recover from the crisis, while people remain safe at home. But to do this, it will require both the government and the private sector to accelerate cybersecurity measures as they pursue digitalization initiatives.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said that it had been working with both local and international regulators and agencies to monitor emergent systemic risks during the crisis. These risks refer to the possibility of company-level events that could cause instability or collapse to the industry or the economy as a whole.


Being cyber-secure

But there’s more work to be done for the digital economy. As digitalization made the lives of people more convenient and bearable in this global health crisis, the rapid adoption of digital technologies, however, posed new threats to people across the globe. I am talking about cybercrime, and data and security breaches. Money launderers and criminals will thrive when systems lack transparency and grant anonymity.

As the Chief Operating Officer of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), I see the urgent need for us and other sectors to get our acts together in pushing for a safe, secure and reliable digital system to transition the nation into a post-pandemic world and build industries of tomorrow.

This is especially crucial for the banking sector as the S&P Global Ratings recently said that the “industry is becoming more exposed to cybercrime after the pandemic accelerated digitalization and remote working, which could lead to more rating actions.”

Last month, BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno said the BSP received about 20,000 complaints from financial consumers in 2020, with the majority of the complaints related to fraud and unauthorized transactions.

This data was supported by a study conducted from March 16 to Aug. 31, 2020, by the Anti-Money Laundering Council on financial crime, “which showed cases such as skimming, phishing and unauthorized transactions made up 49 percent of suspicious transaction reports in the first few months of the pandemic.”

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The BSP has also issued Circular Nos. 808 and 982, outlining Guidelines for Information Security Risk and at its basic, it’s all about Prevention, Protection, Detection and Mitigation. Most banks have implemented information security processes and CyberSecurity Operations Centers in line with these guidance and best practices.

Collectively, the Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) has also implemented the Cybersecurity Incident Database project, which is a collaborative, threat-reporting and analytics platform. This allows the member-banks to readily identify emerging or developing threat patterns so they can collectively mitigate.

Furthermore, we at the BAP recently urged Congress to revisit the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 since the current law lack the teeth needed to give Philippine banks the legal remedy when their names are embroiled in cybercrime scandals. We also proposed the creation of a cybercrime unit dedicated to financial crimes with agency structures and skill sets similar to what Singapore and the United States have.

In BPI, we continually use both technical and nontechnical measures to combat social engineering attacks. We encourage our customers to use the Bank’s mobile and online security features to help keep their accounts safe.

These include the activation of one’s Mobile Key, enabling biometric login, linking a device to one’s account, using One-Time PIN and setting up login notifications and email alerts, among others.

These form part of BPI’s sustained awareness campaigns and continued deployment of security features, as we work on strengthening our holistic approach toward cybersecurity and the fight against the various scams perpetrated by fraudsters.

If we are able to ensure Filipinos of a cyber-secure system, then there’s hope for the Philippine economy to hit growth targets sooner than expected. This is because digital disruption is here to stay and the only way to allow the nation to move forward, especially at this time, is to provide them the tools, options and a safe space they can trust online.

This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or MAP. The author is Member of MAP, COO of BPI, and vice chair of the Cybersecurity Committee of BAP.

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