Singapore, Philippines central banks move to tighten cyber security

Singapore, Philippines central banks move to tighten cyber security

SINGAPORE/MANILA - Singapore's central bank has asked banks to maintain a high level of security for their critical IT systems following recent cyber attacks using the SWIFT financial messaging system.

In the Philippines, the central bank was crafting more regulations to help banks and other financial institutions fend off cyber heists and minimise damage after any systems breach, a senior official said.

The actions come after Vietnam's Tien Phong Bank said earlier this week it had interrupted an attempted cyber heist that involved the use of fraudulent SWIFT messages, the same technique at the heart of February's massive theft from the Bangladesh central bank.

The two attacks through SWIFT, used by about 11,000 banks and institutions around the world, have sent tremors through the global financial industry.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore "expects financial institutions to implement strong controls in their IT systems as set out in the MAS Technology Risk Management Guidelines", a spokeswoman said in response to media queries.

"This includes maintaining a high level of security for their critical IT systems, such as SWIFT."

Singapore's MAS would continue to monitor the security landscape and threats faced by the financial industry and provide guidance where necessary, the spokeswoman said.

Nestor Espenilla, the Philippines' central bank deputy governor in charge of banking supervision, said cyber threats were growing.

"That basically reminds us that there is absolutely no room for complacency," he told reporters.

"We consider it to be a very serious threat that financial institutions should really be preparing for."

Regulators were looking at requiring banks to immediately report cyber crime to contain the threat and to ensure financial institutions learn from each other, Espenilla said.

The additional measures would also elevate information technology standards of banks to align them with international norms, he said.

The central bank had also boosted its own defences, he said.

About US$81 million (S$111 million) stolen from Bangladesh in the cyber heist went to bank accounts in the Philippines and most remains missing.

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