Banks invest Shs392b in IT to fight rising digital fraud

UBA says the increase in digital payments and money transfers has exposed banks to technology driven fraud. Photo / Edgar R Batte 

What you need to know:

  • The UBA report indicates that commercial banks invested at least Shs1b or more in information technology everyday in 2022 in a bid to improve processes and security

Financial institutions under Uganda Bankers Association (UBA) spent at least Shs392b on information technology to improve processes and security in 2022, amid enhanced digital transformation.  

There are at least 34 financial institutions under UBA, an umbrella organisation that brings together commercial and development financing banks, among others.  

The investment, the 2022 UBA Annual Report noted, sought to reinforce the rising role of technology in banking that has continued to drive and shape business operations.

The report noted that the Shs392b represents at least Shs1b spent by financial institutions per day to counter disruptive technologies, which “have markedly changed the way financial institutions operate and deliver services to customers”. 

“Technology has changed not only what we do but also who we are. It is affecting our identity and all the issues associated with it: our sense of privacy, our notions of ownership, our consumption patterns, time we devote to work, how we develop our careers, cultivate our skills, meet people, and nurture relationships,” the report reads in part, noting that technological innovation are now leading the supply-side and it likely to stay the same for a long time. 

However, the report indicated that whereas technology had changed the financial landscape, it had come with risk, especially cyber security risks, which member financial institutions are mitigating with heavy human and financial resources to mitigate and maintain confidence in the banking and financial system. 

The report, which highlights a number of fundamentals in the financial and banking sector, also notes that there has been a marked increase in bank fraud due to an increased usage of technology with impersonation, identity theft, forgery and cash suppression being some of the most recorded forms of fraud. 

The above forms of fraud, comprised at least 42.4 percent of banking sector reported incidences with the report indicating that perpetrators of fraud have taken advantage of increased reliance on digital payment, transfer of money and growth in collaborated services between banks and other players such as mobile money companies to propagate cyber-attacks. 

For instance, the report noted, cases of wallet and internet banking account take overs have been rising with fraudsters exploiting third-party system vulnerabilities to comprise customer accounts. 

Other forms of fraud under impersonation and identity theft included online card fraud, third-party risk posed by aggregators and loan fraud. 

Cyber fraud payment, the report indicates, increased during the period, becoming one of the commonest category of scams.  

This, the report noted, constituted 31.9 percent of the total industry fraud mainly driven by an increase in uptake of electronic services. 

Other scams included loan related frauds, which constituted at least 25.7 percent of captured cases.  

However, the report noted, less than 3 percent of attempted frauds, estimated at Shs43b, were successful, suggesting that 97 percent were blocked, foiled or rendered unsuccessful.

Increased exposure 

No data was provided to show the extent of fraud and how it has impacted banking. 

However, now that digitisation has been heightened in the banking and financial sector in the last five years with a number of banks, including Stanbic and Equity, among others, reporting that more than 95 percent of their transactions are now conducted online, there has been increased exposure.