Risk of cyber attacks ever increasing in FinTech sector

“Finance technology increases our reliance on core infrastructure and networks for financial processing. The ecosystem is becoming more and more interconnected with increasing digitisation, and thus the risk of cyber attacks is ever increasing, with the potential impact becoming more devastating,” stated Teo Chin Hock, deputy chief executive of Cyber Security Agency (CSA) while speaking at the Singapore Fintech Festival.

Teo Chin Hock, deputy chief executive of CSA.
Teo Chin Hock, deputy chief executive of CSA. Photo courtesy: fintechfestival.sg

Stressing on the role of cyber resiliency, he said, “In this new world, we must renew our focus on cyber resiliency. The premise of cyber resiliency assumes that there will be breaches, and focuses instead on early detection. It aims to minimise disruption for all members of the ecosystem, and is a core tenant of Singapore’s strategy to maintain its status as a regional financial hub.

Earlier, Teo began with remarks around the importance of cyber security in protecting the global community. He cited two examples of cyber breaches within the past 12 months which resulted in significant financial losses and leakage of personally identifiable information. In a major data breach at Equifax, 143 million Americans had their personal details compromised due to a cyber attack. In another example, a USD60 million theft resulted from a Taiwanese SWIFT cyber attack.

National and international agencies should co-ordinate to fight against cyber attackers.
National and international agencies should co-ordinate to fight against cyber attackers. Photo courtesy: Facebook

Teo emphasised the need to focus on innovation in tandem with cybersecurity. Most unanimously agree that the future in finance is based in technology. Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong echoed this sentiment this year on National Day, sharing that he wants Singapore to re-think electronic payments. Singapore is launching a Smart Nation Initiative to improve the e-payments space. With this innovation, however, cybersecurity and risk will play an important role.

Another point that Teo made was that digitisation of financial tasks is fully embedded in our everyday lives. The global community has come to rely on and utilise mobile payments to pay family members, colleagues, friends, and many others at the touch of their fingers.  

Highlighting the role of national and international agencies to fight against cyber attackers, Teo said, “The financial sector is highly attractive to cyber attackers, and thus we must have national and international cooperation to fight these attacks. All actors including government agencies and MNCs must play their part in helping to design and maintain strong cybersecurity frameworks. Singapore has developed a Cyber Security Strategy to help ensure stable infrastructure to improve the lives of Singaporeans. Furthermore, MAS has created a regulatory sandbox for FinTechs to help the ecosystem to work together to enhance cyber resiliency.”

Teo acknowledged that cost is always a challenge and was of the view that it is a long term investment that will help protect reputation and product viability. FinTechs should strive to balance cost, security, and usability, he said.

Ashraf Jamal
Ashraf Jamal – Senior Writer

Ashraf Jamal brings a rare depth to writing equipped with a degree in journalism, a postgraduate degree in political science, and a degree in law from the Allahabad University. His experience includes editing and publishing the Northern India Patrika and writing for Times of India for almost a decade covering just about any topic under the sun including NRIs and Indian diaspora.


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