Electronic banking: A blessing and a curse, former banker says

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The recent breach of customers’ accounts at Antigua Commercial Bank (ACB) has prompted concerns over the security of local financial institutions in general.

However, during an appearance on OBSERVER media’s Big Issues programme, on Sunday, Management and Financial Consultant, Everett Christian, told listeners that although technology has been effective in alleviating the hassle of banking, security breaches are unavoidable.

“What it seems to me is that no matter how much security infrastructure we put in place, the crooks will find ways to locate vulnerabilities and exploit them, so this is almost like a cat and mouse game,” Christian said.

“So the only thing that I can conclude is that the Internet and electronic banking has been both a blessing and a curse. Blessing from the point of view of the convenience, the speed, the efficiency is there; but then the risk is higher.”

He also said that he believes the incident would have no significant impact on the local banking sector.

“I don’t think this incident will have any significant impact on the sector. It’s not the first time this has happened. I remember a few years ago we had it with First Caribbean; a much larger institution than ACB. It had not affected them. It’s part of doing business. It’s part of the risk that they face every day,” he added.

In pointing to a probable cause of ACB’s bank breach, Christian said it may not be that anyone has infiltrated to heart of the bank’s system, but instead they may have used skimming machines to hack through electronic mediums.

“What appears to have happened here is a skimming process where fraudsters use these skimmers which they attach to the ATM machines and these skimmers are designed to steal all the information on your magnetic strip … so in that sense it does not appear to be a breach of the bank’s system per sé. It’s not that they’ve infiltrated the bank and the bank’s core platform.”

Meanwhile, customers whose accounts were affected at the Antigua Commercial Bank are being refunded.

Last week, several customers reported suspicious activity on their accounts, with funds going missing and evidence of purchases being made at US stores which they did not make.

 On Saturday, several customers told OBSERVER media that ACB officials had informed them via telephone that their missing funds had been refunded, and that further checks had verified

this.

Nevertheless, the ACB is urging its customers

to pay keen attention to their accounts and to immediately report any activity that appears to be out of the ordinary.

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