As banks increasingly allow some staff to work remotely, especially at home, the likelihood of cyber-attacks is higher than working in the traditional banking environment, Abiola Bawuah, Regional CEO-West Africa at United Bank for Africa (UBA), has said.
She said banks, just like other businesses trying to reduce the number of staff reporting to work on a daily basis to comply with COVID-19 protocols, are allowing workers to operate outside the traditional office environment.
This she maintains presents the sector with a new cyber-security threat because banks have very little control over the security of staff operating from home.
Mrs. Bawuah said the safety of Internet service; and as well as activities of fraudsters expose workers operating from home to danger.
“Remote work has become the new norm. We are going to get to a situation where there will be a lot of remote working; but as we introduce a lot of this into the system, you will get to a point where a lot of people are going to access your system from their homes; how will you know if they are there with fraudsters? You won’t know, so that is part of the risk that I am talking about,” she said.
Mrs. Bawuah spoke to the B&FT in Accra during the maiden Chartered Institute of Credit Management, Ghana (CICMG) presidential ball and graduation ceremony. The ceremony was on the theme ‘The era of COVID-19 conundrum: the increase of cybersecurity threats in the banking and financial services industry’.
She said cybersecurity risks have become real as financial institutions progress in “channelling most of our products through digital means, and because there is the human element there is that risk – the temptation for people to hack into your system”.
Mrs. Bawuah’s fears are not unfounded. On July 2, 2020, a petition was received by the police that a criminal remotely logged into the banking software of a bank and used the log-in credentials of a staff who was on leave at the time – to transfer money to the tune of GH¢46million to eight individuals in different banks.
Meanwhile, according to the Cyber Crime Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department, the country lost US$97million to cybercrime-related activities between 2016 and 2018. These funds, Mrs. Bawuah added, are huge and could have been used to develop many sectors of the economy.
Banks are up to the task
On whether the industry can step up to the challenge posed by having staff work from home and the entire cybersecurity risk, she said most banks have intensified their efforts and are improving their systems on a daily basis – which to her gives confidence that the sector can overcome it. She, however, added that the fight against cybercrime is not a one-day thing but a continuous process:
“It is day in, day out; so I think banks will certainly overcome that. The continuous role played by technology and its increased use also comes with heightened threats of potentially exposing financial institutions and the public to risks of financial losses. It is therefore expected that as we embrace technology more as a consequence of the pandemic, that risk will be heightened; and this will require greater collaboration between banks, the Bank of Ghana, security services and industry experts to deal with this threat,” she stated.
The need to properly scrutinise staff
According to her, the increasing threat of cyber-related crime within the banking industry is a wake-up call for all players to beef-up internal security; and one of the surest ways to go about this is to conduct proper background checks on all employees, particularly those with access to sensitive information. This, she explains, will help banks to limit cybersecurity risks and foster customer confidence, as the sector transitions to the new way of banking.
The ceremony saw 35 passing out as chartered fellows in credit professionals, five as associate members, seven as honorary fellows and five as chartered fellows. Executive Secretary of the Institute, Agyepong Amo, said since its inception six years ago CICMG has churned out about 200 risk and credit professionals and is committed to doing more in the years ahead.