Kaspersky Lab warns of future attacks against digital money, urges OFWs to be cyber-savvy to protect themselves abroad

With the consistent growth of money remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and the rising use of digital payment systems in the Philippines, Kaspersky Lab recently emphasized the need for Filipinos to be more cybersecurity-aware.

Data from the global cybersecurity company confirms that countries in the Asia Pacific region are now heading towards the path of being cashless societies, with the Philippines lagging behind Singapore and India but still on track towards broad consumer adoption of digital payments and mobile wallets.

Remittances from an estimated 2.2 million OFWs sent back to the Philippines hit $28.1 billion in 2017, with a projected growth of five percent year-on-year.

“The ways we transmit money or how we pay for things have changed so fast in the last five years. Fortunately, this means progress and growth. The Philippines is just starting on its journey towards a cashless society and from a cybersecurity standpoint, I’d say it is the best time for the Philippines to evaluate both the opportunities and threats down the road to achieve eventual benefit for the people and the economy,” says Stephan Neumeier, Managing Director for Kaspersky Lab Asia Pacific.

“As these cash transactions play a crucial role not only for the Filipino families but also to the country’s economy, it is high time to promote cybersecurity awareness among the Filipinos working abroad as well as their families,” adds Neumeier.

Compared to its neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, the Philippines has the lowest online money transactions in the region. Currently, 99% of financial processes are still done using all cash, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

“While digital payment is still in its infancy stage in the Philippines, now is the perfect time to educate OFWs and their families here in the country that they are lucrative targets for cybercriminals. On top of that, OFW are probably working in countries where digital payments platforms are already mature. OFWs have what these hackers are running after, which is money, so they have to be aware of the threats and they have to understand how they can protect themselves,” warns Neumeier.

Rising use of Mobile Wallet

Kaspersky Lab also observed the increased use of mobile wallets in the Philippines as more start-ups have started offering this service in the country. Filipinos, majority of whom are unbanked or without bank deposit accounts, use mobile wallets as alternatives to bank accounts.

Kaspersky Lab ranked the Philippines as the eighth (8th) most attacked country by mobile malware in 2016. Data from the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) showed over three-in-10 (34.97%) Filipinos with smartphones have been infected by this type of threat that year.

KSN is a complex, distributed infrastructure that processes depersonalized cybersecurity-related data streams from millions of voluntary Kaspersky Lab product users around the world.

“There are over 30 million smartphone users in the Philippines and 14% of them are now using their devices for transacting money online. While mobile wallets give unparalleled convenience, it comes with security risks that can lead to loss of money,” says Neumeier.

Security Tips for Digital Transactions

To help OFWs in securing their money transfers, Kaspersky Lab suggests the following basic cybersecurity steps:

1. Use only your secured, personal device. Be sure that your PC or your mobile phone has an updated OS and a solid cybersecurity solution.

2. Verify the site or app that you will use. Check if they are legitimate and if they offer strong encryption. Be wary of shady advertisements and wrong spellings on the websites or apps.

3. Use a strong and unique password. Financial accounts warrant the strongest password that you can think of because it’s your money at stake.

4. Implement a two-factor authentication. This is the process wherein any logins that you will make will generate an SMS or email-based security code. If someone tries to hack your account, you will know.

For Filipino mobile wallet users, here are some cybersecurity tips to keep your money safe:

1. Only download from official store. Remember that you can only get legitimate and updated mobile wallet apps in official stores. There is no shortcut.

2. Do not use installation file (.apk). Cybercriminals can inject malware in this executable files. Be wary of them.

3. Enable a password and lock phone feature. Create a password on your smartphone with a feature that when a password attempt fails a certain number of times, the phone will lock, disable, and in some cases even erase all data.

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