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Withdrawing money from an Acleda bank ATM last year
Withdrawing money from an Acleda bank ATM last year. In Channy, CEO of Acleda said his firm has yet to face a legitimate cybersecurity threat. Pha Lina

Banks warned of cyberthreat

Cambodia's financial sector has been urged to act quickly to install stronger cybersecurity protections amid concerns over the country’s appetite for counterfeit software.

Representatives from the Cambodian government, Microsoft and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headed a three-hour seminar on cybersecurity threats in Phnom Penh on Friday, all calling for increased effort to protect the Kingdom’s banking system.

“The prevalence of pirated software could be a real threat to all institutions in Cambodia, including those in the financial sector,” Astrid Tuminez, Microsoft’s regional director of legal and corporate affairs, said.

Citing a 2013 study by the International Data Corporation and the National University of Singapore, which showed 84 per cent of new computers in Thailand were infected with viruses due to counterfeit software, Tuminez said Cambodian corporations risk losing hundreds of thousands of dollars if software is not purchased from legitimate suppliers.

Friday’s message was the second such warning in less than a year. In February, Michael Mudd, secretary-general of the Asia-Pacific Open Computing Alliance, said Cambodian firms using pirated software were at risk of being blocked from exporting to the US in an effort to combat intellectual property theft.

But despite the concern, local banking representatives remained confident that the industry was properly protected against viruses and potential cyber security threats.

In Channy, CEO of Cambodia’s largest banking firm, Acleda Bank, said his firm has yet to face a legitimate cybersecurity threat and that the local financial industry as a whole was adopting international standards to keep customer information safe.

“If you use the [pirated] copy software, you invite the risk,” Channay said. “But I do not think any bank is using this copy software. The copy ones have a virus, and if you use that sort of product, you place not only the customer at risk, but also your partner institutions, and the bank itself.”

According to Channy, Cambodia’s banking industry does not have an industry-wide strategy to combat cyberthreats.

Acleda Bank in December last year spent some $10 million on boosting its security measures including a full rollout of data and transaction encryption software across some 267 branches and offices in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

Charles Van, executive vice president of Candadia Bank and acting chairman of the Association of Banks in Cambodia, similarly rallied Channy’s confidence, saying all registered banking institutions in the Kingdom were operating secure, non-counterfeit software.

“All the banks have to make sure all the info is strictly comply with the industry requirements,” he said. “You may say the Cambodia’s banking industry is young, but being so young we can learn the latest technologies very quickly and we do not get hung up on old processes.”

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