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Opinion

Phishing

FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

The last line of defense against cybercrime is the consumer himself.

As we all become more reliant on digital transactions in this age of pandemic, cyber criminals are bound to be more active. The vulnerable, understandably, are consumers of financial services.

The latest data show a 37 percent increase in online scams in the period from January to September 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. We might expect that escalation to continue as we all migrate our transactions online.

We have effective anti-cybercrime laws. Regulators are breathing down the necks of banks to constantly upgrade their defenses against cybercrime. The banks, in turn, are constantly sending out advisories to their consumers about how to guard against fraud.

Those are not enough to protect consumers against phishing.

Phishing happens when consumers are duped into giving out their passwords, personal identification numbers and account details to unscrupulous persons. No amount of regulatory regulations can stop this. It has nothing to do with the strength of the banks’ cyber-security architecture. It has everything to do with the naivety of some consumers.

For this reason, the banks are using social media to inform their customers that they never ask for personal information online. Included here is the One-Time Password (OTP) issue along with your ATM card – and which you are expected to change immediately. This appears to be a frequent point of vulnerability.

So far, and we are keeping our fingers crossed, no Philippine bank has lost customer data to cybercriminals. In the US, by contrast, a financial services company called Capital One lost data on 100 million customers to cyber thieves. US regulators fined that company P80 million for failing to fully secure its data.

The BSP has done a commendable job encouraging our banking system to maintain state-of-the-art security measures. The strong firewalls erected around the databases of banks have so far withstood cyber attacks.

There have been reports of people losing their money to cyber fraud. Almost always, the loss is attributable to phishing. The banks cannot be held responsible for fraud committed because some customers let down their guard.

With more and more transactions happening online, we all have to be vigilant against data theft. Cybercriminals are become more and more creative, faking bank notices and setting up attractive baits for unwary customers.

The best our banks can do is to alert customers about the latest modus operandi of cybercriminals. The rest of the burden of maintaining security falls on the shoulders of customers.

Responsibility for any breach falls where they must. The banking public can either be the Achilles’ Heel of our financial system or its best weapon.

Articulate

Hidilyn Diaz is not only headstrong. She is clear-minded as well.

Trapped in mandatory quarantine, she had all the time to entertain all the requests for interviews the past few days. She has proven to be extremely articulate and immensely informed.

For one, Hidilyn is one of very few Filipino athletes to have a sports psychologist in her small team. She also participates in a regular meeting over Zoom with other athletes and coaches providing emotional support for each other. This is almost a novelty, certainly most modern.

It is only this year – after Naoimi Osaka withdrew from the French Open for reasons of mental health and gymnastics superstar Simone Biles withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics for the same reason – that mental health became a public concern for athletes at the highest level.

For too long, we treated our athletes one-dimensionally – as supermen with no frailty at all. It was nearly taboo to speak of mental health in the context of sports.

We now know better. Athletics is not just a test of physical prowess. It is more importantly a test of mental strength.

Mental strength is particularly important is gymnastics. We know from Biles’ account that the brain can lose control of the muscles. In the most precise maneuvers the sport requires, this can lead to serious injuries.

With her gold medal, Hidilyn also wins an enviable pulpit from which to address her people. It is a powerful pulpit. She can use this pulpit most effectively advocating for our athletes and speaking for the betterment of our sporting institutions. This will make her a true gift to Filipino sports.

To be sure, there is now a beeline forming at her doorstep composed of businesses seeking to make her a product endorser. Product endorsement will surely multiply the much-deserved basket of rewards she earned since Monday this week. From having seen many of her interviews, there is no doubt she will be very smart in choosing the products she endorses – and eventually in the causes she will espouse.

Almost certainly, interviewers will bait her into making political pronouncements. Here her discretion will be tested to the max. We are, after all, entering electoral season and there will be no want of politicians seeking her backing.

The worst that could possibly happen to Hidilyn is that she acquires what, for lack of a better term, we might call the Pacquiao Syndrome. This happens when an elite athlete, adored by the people, falls into the belief that athletic achievement becomes a mandate from heaven to rule a nation.

This will not happen to Hidilyn, of course. It seems she is far wiser for her age. She has been humble in triumph, respectful in glory.

By winning gold, she also acquired a powerful voice to speak to her people – one guided by her keen sense of place.

CYBERCRIME
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