Singapore Banks Ramp Up Security To Combat Malware Scams

The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) made a significant announcement today, highlighting the proactive steps taken by major retail banks in Singapore to bolster their security measures. The primary aim of these measures is to shield customers from the growing threat of malware scams. Moreover, these banks have committed to continuously refine and adapt their security protocols to stay ahead of the evolving threat landscape.

Each bank has meticulously designed its anti-malware security measures to align with its unique customer base and existing systems. These measures will undergo ongoing adjustments to effectively combat emerging threats. ABS emphasized that this approach will make it considerably more difficult for scammers to devise a one-size-fits-all strategy to bypass security measures across the entire industry.

The core functionality of these security measures lies in their ability to detect the presence of malware on customers’ devices and trigger responsive actions when suspicious activities are identified. These actions can range from temporarily blocking access to the banking app to initiating a customer call for transaction verification.

Importantly, ABS clarified that these security measures strictly focus on safeguarding customers and their devices. They do not involve monitoring or surveillance of customers’ mobile devices, nor do they collect or store personal data. However, it’s worth noting that these measures may impact the customer experience during banking transactions, as banks seek to strike a balance between fraud prevention and customer convenience.

Mrs. Ong-Ang Ai Boon, the director of ABS, emphasized that while these security measures are robust, they are not foolproof. The most effective defense against scams remains an alert and vigilant customer.

Ms. Ho Hern Shin, the deputy managing director of financial supervision at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), welcomed the banks’ commitment to enhancing security against malware scams. She underscored the need for continuous adaptation to counter the ever-evolving tactics of scammers. Ms. Ho also urged the public to stay informed by following scam advisories issued by the police and banks to protect themselves effectively.

Director David Chew of the Singapore Police Force’s Commercial Affairs Department expressed the seriousness of malware scams targeting banking apps. He cautioned against downloading suspicious Android Package Kit (APK) files from unverified sources, as these could lead to malware installation on users’ devices.

Alarming mid-year scam statistics revealed a 64.5 percent increase in reported scam cases from January to June 2023 compared to the same period in 2022, totaling 22,339 cases. OCBC Bank’s recent update to its banking app proved successful in thwarting malware scammers, preventing potential losses exceeding $2 million from more than 30 customers.

Citibank, on the other hand, recently introduced an anti-scam feature on its mobile app. This feature restricts access to the app if it detects risky permissions granted to other apps. Users must disable these permissions on other apps, such as screen sharing, before resuming their usage of Citibank’s mobile app. Citibank’s initiative reflects its ongoing commitment to providing a secure banking environment for its customers.