Hackers Clone ATM Cards And Withdraw Money In Ghana

Mr Philemon Kwame Ankomah, Chief Information Security Officer with the Bank of Africa, has disclosed that cyber hackers cloned some ATM cards in Ghana and withdrew monies belonging to depositors of banks particularly during the coronavirus period.

Globally, he elaborated, cybercrime has increased drastically during the COVID-19 because the criminals want to take advantage of the banks and other financial institutions that are adapting to new ways of transacting businesses.

Speaking during the business webinar on the topic: ‘Banking in a Covid-19 environment, Dynamics for Corporate, SMEs and Individuals’ organized by the Bank of Africa in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, CCI France Ghana, on Thursday, June 25, Mr Ankomah elaborated that there are threats related to the dynamics of the new normal in the wake of the pandemic”, he said.

“The COVID-19 has caused customers to push banking and businesses in general towards online and engagements and transactions. Whiles, there is some remarkable feat to be enjoyed and celebrated by a lot of companies, there are also a number of successes that are being enjoyed by criminals who are also taking advantage and exploiting certain vulnerabilities that come with the new way of doing business”, he said.

“Undoubtedly, one of the biggest winners of COVID-19 arrival is video conferencing. Before the arrival of COVID-19, we all admit that very few tech-savvy companies and individuals engage in online meetings and video conferencing but now this has become the new normal. Everybody seems to prefer to engage in online than to have a face-to-face meeting and nobody has been a bigger winner than zoom. Zoom was able to post $328.3m in revenue just in the first quarter alone and this is very impressive. We also take a look at streaming companies. Most of us have Netflix accounts. Before COVID, I didn’t see the importance of it but during this lockdown, it came in very handy so we all subscribed to Netflix and Netflix has been a big winner with the arrival of COVD-19. They were able to add up to 16 million subscribers in the first quarter only. This is double of the predictors’ subscriptions that they themselves predicted in January”, he added.

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“We also have online retail companies. I suspect the likes of Jumia and other local companies in Ghana have also benefited a lot from the arrival of Covid-19 but unfortunately, we don’t have any records or data to support this so we have to focus on the international front. The likes of Amazon grew up to 25 per cent just within the arrival of COVID-19,” he stressed.


He added: “But when we come down locally to Ghana a report indicates that MTN saw an up pick of data subscription by 5.5 % and also grew MoMo subscribers by 6.9 per cent which was 15.5 million subscribers by MTN. Let us look at the successes being chalk up by the criminals taking advantage of the new way of doing business. Before the arrival of COVID-19 FBI was recording an average of 100 reports on a daily basis from the internet portals. Fast forward to COVID-19 times that figure has quadrupled to 4000 on a daily basis. That show s that cyber activities have increased tremendously. Some are affected by ransomware which encrypted their files and crippled their data services for weeks. The hackers requested for $6million ransom but they finally settled for $2.2million so you just imagine that having to pay money to have access to your own data. That is what happened”, he explained.

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“Another group of hackers compromised a mail server of the Norwegian investment company and for several months. What they did was to monitor email communications with clients, gathered information, encrypted accounts to impersonate one of their staff and they were able to authorize and made payment worth $10million which was intended for microfinance in Cambodia,” he said.

“Even though these examples are international examples since we do not have any data on Ghana it doesn’t mean that when it comes to Ghana this threat is far from us. We do have a number of incidents recorded in Ghana but unfortunately, we don’t have accurate data to support that, but I know of one that I can give example,” he added.

“During the Covid-19 times, most banks extended the withdrawal limits for their clients via the ATMs to discourage them from entering the banking halls. So over the weekend hackers noticed this in Ghana and were able to install cloning devices on off-site ATMs and they were able to clone quite a number of ATM cards and withdrew a lot of money over one weekend only. A number of banks were affected though we haven’t gotten official records on them. So all these go to prove that the threats are not just international-based but also they are right here at home,” he stressed.

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For his part, Mr William Boateng, Executive Head Corporate and Enterprise Banking at the Bank of Africa said the bank is leveraging on its global presence to reach out to clients during this Covid-19 period.

He pointed out that the outbreak of the pandemic is testing the loyalty of clients towards banks hence the need to adopt new ways of transacting business which comprises of online trading.

“What Covid-19 is doing is teaching us new ways of doing business, opening our eyes to opportunities that come with technology,” he emphasized.

“Covid-19 is testing the loyalty,” he said, adding that “Testing trust, businesses are worried. Banks are now shifting from the usual ways of doing things and we are leveraging on our presence across the globe to be able to support our customers.”

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