Converge, UnionBank join forces to fight financial cybercrime

Banking and Finance sector among top targets of online fraud 

Converge and UnionBank partner to block fraudulent financial and banking sites. (L-R) Unionbank representatives: Atty. Ernesto C. Herrera III, Anti-Financial Crimes Governance Head, Jose Paolo G. Rufo, FVP, Chief Information Security Officer and Data Protection Officer, and Henry Rhoel R. Aguda, SEVP, Chief Technology and Operations Officer and Chief Transformation Officer join hands with Converge representatives: Paulo Martin G. Santos, EVP, Chief Network Transformation Officer, Atty. Laurice P. Esteban-Tuason, SVP, Corporate Compliance and Data Protection Officer, and Benjamin Rex Emilio B. Azada, EVP, Chief Strategy Officer.

Converge ICT Solutions Inc. has signed a memorandum of understanding with Union Bank of the Philippines as part of an industry wide effort to clamp down on online fraud and financial cybercrimes.

It has been reported that the banking and finance industry is one of the top vulnerable sectors to online fraud. In the Converge network alone, over 4.1 million unique web addresses related to illicit content have been blocked since the start of the year. 

This was announced at the inauguration of the UnionBank Innovation Campus in San Pedro, Laguna where Converge also joined the industry alliance together with other telecommunication companies (telcos) to fight online criminal activity using the banking and financial systems. The Digital Infrastructure group of the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) initiated the joint efforts of the telcos to uphold their commitment to consumer protection amid growing fraud concerns. This marks the first course of action of the PSAC Digital Infrastructure sector, shortly after it was formed last month. 

Converge Chief Network Transformation Officer Paulo Martin G. Santos shared at the signing that Converge recognizes its role in creating a more secure digital ecosystem for both residential and commercial customers. 

“Based on available data, we have seen a spike in financial fraud which makes banking the second highest industry affected by cybercrime. We now average over 4.1 million requests to block fraudulent URLs in our network. This makes our partnership today urgent and timely. We commend Unionbank for spearheading this initiative as we help prevent more Filipinos from being victimized by online fraud,” said Santos.

“The pandemic really kickstarted the growth of our digital channels, particularly at Unionbank. Just like any other channel, even in the physical world, whenever there is money there, criminals will follow. [These cybercriminals] saw that opportunity to take advantage of Filipinos who are digital migrants –  first time to use digital services and are not really familiar with the concept of phishing, scams, text, spam. In fact, the Bankers Association of the Philippines, in its 2021 report said that P1 billion were lost due to these fraudulent attacks by cybercriminals,” explained Joey Rufo, Chief Information Security Officer and Data Protection Officer at UnionBank. 

Converge representatives attend the MOU signing with UnionBank and other telcos to create a framework to share information in order to combat financial cybercrime (L-R) Benjamin Rex Emilio B. Azada (Converge EVP, Chief Strategy Officer),  Atty. Laurice P. Esteban-Tuason (SVP, Corporate Compliance and Data Protection Officer) and Paulo Martin G. Santos (EVP, Chief Network Transformation Officer)

The MOU formalized the long-standing partnership between Converge and UnionBank, who have already been collaborating to block content and URLs of fraudulent activity since the start of 2022. 

“I’d like to thank Converge for swiftly acting on our request to block these illicit sites. Through our collaboration, we are able to protect more online citizens every day,” added Rufo.

Converge and UnionBank, along with the Bankers Association of the Philippines, and the other telcos are partnering together to create a framework to share information in order to combat financial cybercrime. Through this initiative, the capability of cybercrime perpetrators to exploit and manipulate the internet and financial technology will be minimized. 

“Our collaboration is a big step towards enabling more effective fraud detection and prevention, as we facilitate the takedown of clickable links and blocking of phishing and other malicious sites. It is also a timely development as phishing or smishing scams and other cyber crimes are increasing day by day. Rest assured, even as there is sharing of personal information between parties, data subjects rights’ will still be protected.  Everything we do will be in compliance with existing laws, rules and regulations. Ultimately, our common goal is to ensure the security and responsible use of cyberspace and financial technology,” said Converge Chief Strategy Officer Benjamin B. Azada.

The MOU is a response to Advisory Opinion 2021-026 issued by the National Privacy Commission (NPC) allowing for the sharing of relevant data for purposes of fraud investigations. It was a proactive response addressing the rising number of phishing and cybercrime cases.

“The idea of data privacy as an enabler is important because we as data subjects also depend on various technologies to protect our personal data. Technologies such as encryption, privacy settings, authentication tools and so on, are some of the tools we use to assess the risks of any particular disclosure that exposes us to others, as well as facilitate the continued use of technologies. Users need to trust them,” shared NPC Deputy Commissioner, Leandro Aguirre in his speech.

Deputy Commissioner Aguirre continued “In helping build and maintain this trust, certain collaborations are being made by Unionbank with other telecommunications companies. There is significant hope that through these measures, we will be able to achieve our goal of better protecting our data subjects against fraud and other digital crimes prevailing today.”

Converge has been active in its campaign to promote a safer digital space for Filipinos. Last year, it joined the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) in its fight against internet sexual abuse of children, employing relevant technology investments to block all types of illicit content in its network.

“Converge is always open to working with relevant organizations to extend our technologies and capabilities to combat the risks Filipinos encounter in cyberspace. We have always campaigned for a safe digital ecosystem for Filipinos where they are free of any attacks and risks,” said Azada. 

These initiatives are in line with the sustainability commitment of Converge to empower the Filipino people and the nation through programs that create positive impacts on its community and people.

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