Cyber scams in Hong Kong tripled last year: HKMA

Pedro Gonçalves
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Cyber scams in Hong Kong tripled last year: HKMA

Online fraud in Hong Kong registered a threefold increase last year to 142 reported cases, as the Hong Kong Association of Banks (HKAB) warns that banks must step up cybersecurity as these scams multiply.

According to the latest figures from  Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), cyberattacks on banks doubled last year. Online scams - including false banking websites, phishing emails and fake banking apps - reached 142 cases in 2018, a threefold increase from the 44 reported incidents in 2017 and a big leap from 35 a year before that.

As more digital banking solutions are introduced, cybersecurity risks have increased according to the head of the Hong Kong Association of Banks (HKAB), Mary Huen Wai-Yi.

As banks have been launching more fintech measures in recent years, it has become more convenient for the customers but it has also introducing new types of risk. It is important for the banking sector to step up its risk management to protect the interests of customers"

"As banks have been launching more fintech measures in recent years, it has become more convenient for the customers but it has also introducing new types of risk. It is important for the banking sector to step up its risk management to protect the interests of customers," she told the South China Morning Post.

Hong Kong has lost more than HK$2.2bn ($280m) and suffered over 9,000 cyberattacks in the first nine months of last year.  Phishing  was the fastest-growing cyber scam in Hong Kong last year. There were 62 reported cases, compared to just seven in 2017, according to the HKMA figures.

In the HKMA's year-end review, it was proposed that the financial sector step up its efforts to combatting cybercrimes through the Cyber Resilience Assessment Framework (C-RAF). C-RAF is a three-part assessment instrument that helps AI evaluate cyber resilience for the banking industry.

However, it's not just banks that are at the mercy of hackers. A survey of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Hong Kong and Singapore by Chubb has revealed a significant perception gap in cyber awareness among SMEs in both markets and how well they are prepared to deal with the risk.

Majority of respondents (52% in Hong Kong and 63% in Singapore) believe that they are less vulnerable to cyberattacks than larger companies. However, majority of SMEs (71% in Hong Kong and 56% in Singapore) also encountered a cyber incident in the past 12 months.

"Many SMEs believe they are too small to be targeted by cyber criminals or that internal issues will not greatly impact them. They think they are too small to fail. However, our own claims data highlights numerous small business compromises that are decimating the cash flow of small businesses," said Andrew Taylor, cyber underwriting manager at Chubb Asia-Pacific.

"In fact, smaller companies have a relatively larger exposure, as they face the same threats as larger businesses but do not have the means to implement comprehensive protection, leaving significant risk uncovered."