Kaspersky Lab reminds OFWs to secure digital money transactions

By John Reczon Calay

Global cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab warned overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on the potential risks that could happen on cashless transactions when sending money to their families in the Philippines.

Kaspersky Lab managing director for Asia Pacific Stephan Neumeier (left) with regional communications manager Jesmond Chang

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region are now heading towards cashless societies with Singapore eyeing to achieve this fete by 2027. Data from Kaspersky Lab also show that the Philippines “lags behind Singapore and India but is still on track towards broad consumer adoption of digital payments and mobile wallets.”

A recorded $28.1-billion worth of remittances were sent back in the Philippines by an estimated 2.2 million OFWs in 2017, a 5-percent growth year-on-year. Aside from manual remittances which can take days, cashless transactions was seen to be an efficient and feasible way of sending money in the country.

“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 country to evaluate both the opportunities and threats down the road to achieve eventual benefit for the people and the economy,” said managing director for Kaspersky Lab Asia Pacific Stephan Neumeier, as he noted the development of cash transactions in the last five years.

“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,” Neumeier added.

In contrast with its neighboring countries in the Southeast Asian region, the Philippines has the lowest online money transactions with 99% of financial processes still done using cash, data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) revealed.

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

Kaspersky Lab suggests the following basic cybersecurity steps for OFWs: use only personal and secured devices, verify the app that will be used, use a strong and unique password, implement a two-factor authentication.

The Russian tech firm also warned Filipinos on security threats and potential malware infection of their mobile wallets, noting the rise of startups and initial coin offerings (ICOs) in the Philippines.

Kaspersky Lab ranked the Philippines as the eighth 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.

“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,” Neumeier said.

For mobile wallet users, Kaspersky Lab suggests: only download from official app stores, do not install via .apk, enable a password and lock phone feature.

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