Digital Banking & Cyber Crime

Digital technology in the 21st Century has revolutionised economic and social interaction. It has transformed business, the way we educate ourselves, buying and selling products and services. Also, financial services and banking.

Internet connectivity and use is growing and the number of individual users worldwide is now over 5 Billion, which is over 63% of the global population and continues to grow. This has enabled a Fintech revolution which is transforming how we spend money and share data between buyers, sellers and their intermediaries. 

The implementation of innovative technology has made an opportunity for criminals to find ways to exploit and steal from users. This is especially so in the financial services sector where numerous new online account services are available. At the same time, many new Digital Banks have emerged which operate entirely online. Criminal hackers are certainly fully aware of these new digital services to take advantage of insecure financial data systems. 

Digital banks face rapidly escalating threats as technological developments in cyber crime make it easier than ever for financial criminals to commit fraud.

Cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) and self-learning malware. Phishing attacks meanwhile prey on vulnerable and naïve customers, and for cybercriminals, ransomware is the most lucrative type of attack. Unfortunately, governments and police services have responded slowly to this new, 4th Industrial Digital Revolution. And many of their operations do not have the IT skills and technology to deal with these new crimes. As the crimes, threats and actions frequently take place outside of policing’s national boundaries this cyber crime inadvertently, now has similarities to ancient piracy, where national governments could claim that the crime and criminals were outside their national responsibility, even if they, where sometimes one of the governments funding the pirates. 

The global cost of cyber crime continues to increase and the intensification of these criminal action hackers means that the cost of cyber-crime could reach $10.5 trillion by 2025. 

Cyber crime costs include damage and destruction of data, stolen money, lost productivity, theft of intellectual property, theft of personal and financial data, embezzlement, fraud, post-attack disruption to the normal course of business, forensic investigation, restoration and deletion of hacked data and systems, and reputational harm.
However, in the last decade Western governments are often claiming that their national crime rate is reducing, but this is reporting is not taking cyber-crime into the national picture, which if it did, then national and global crime would be seen to be significantly increasing.

Additionally, it is in the nature of large commercial firms for cyber responsibilities to be split between different departments, which often cause difficulties in understanding and prioritising threats and responding to them. 
More widely, the inter-connectedness of the financial sector means that successful attacks on smaller firms or third party supply chains can significantly affect the wider market. In these circumstances vendors, suppliers, customers and our other colleagues are all critical components of a successful business, but come with risks, and successful attacks against these often perceived weaker links could have an indirect but significant impact on the chain. 

Cyber threat actors have a global reach and cyber threats need to be considered through a global lens. 

High-profile Data Breaches & Vulnerabilities 

Banks are not reporting the full extent of cyber attacks to regulators for fear of punishment or bad publicity as some bank executives and providers of security systems and they are not alone in their reluctance to disclose every cyber attack.

According the British government data, of the five million fraud and 2.5 million cyber-related crimes occurring annually in the UK, only 250,000 are being reported.

In November of 2016 five Russian banks had been under intermittent cyber-attack for two days, said the country's banking regulator. The state-owned Sberbank was one target of the prolonged attacks and hackers sought to overwhelm the websites of the banks by deluging them with data in what is known as a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.

SWIFT, the messaging network that connects the world's banks, says it has identified new hacks targeting its members, and it is warning them to beef up security in the face of "ongoing attacks." It did not name the banks affected. The warning follows cyber attacks on banks in Bangladesh, Vietnam, the Philippines and Ecuador in which malware was used to circumvent local security systems, and in some cases, steal money.

  • An attack on Bangladesh's central bank yielded $101 million.
  • Ecuador's Banco del Austro was hit for $12 million.

As cyber threats are an ever-present threat and continue to evolve, it is essential for banks, police and government to build their cyber-risk analysis part of their business and organisations knowledge so that effective mitigation strategies can be developed and put in place. 

In 2022 there is a real requirement for more effective sharing of IT and Fintech know-how  across the government, police and banking sectors is required. Most cyber crime originates from China, North Korea and Russia where it can be difficult to identify hackers and where local police are unlikely to apprehend them.

Banks will need to work collaboratively with governments and industry bodies to share effective strategies. There also needs to be continued work to educate the public on preventative measures, but the buck stops with the banks who will need to ensure they implement security models that ensure maximum protection for them and their customers.

TMB:    Int Accounting Bulletin:    Datareportal:    Cybersecuritventures:   Royal Holloway:     BBA

Cyber Crime Journal:      Refinitiv:     Guardian:    JICRAR:     Information Age

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