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Digital ID, account security boosts to support financial health in APAC

Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore and Vietnam
Digital ID, account security boosts to support financial health in APAC

Hong Kong and Australia have made efforts to introduce digital identity – the former by supporting the iAM Smart app and the latter by investing in the World Bank’s digital ID infrastructure plan. Meanwhile, Singapore and Vietnam fight banking scammers, including those trying to capture customers’ biometrics.

Digital ID essential for Hong Kong’s financial center status, says FSDC

Digital identity is “crucial” for Hong Kong’s strategy to become a leading international financial center, according to a new report published by a government-founded advisory body which may give wind to the city’s iAM Smart digital ID.

The Financial Services Development Council (FSDC) says that introducing digital IDs would ensure transaction security, improve efficiency and increase inclusivity

“As Hong Kong progresses, it is crucial to prioritize digital ID opportunities and ensure that our digital infrastructure and regulatory frameworks are robust to support this transformative journey,” says Laurence Li SC, Chairman of the FSDC. “Digital ID solutions are at the core of this expansion, facilitating secure and efficient online engagements. It is essential for Hong Kong to thrive in the evolving global landscape.”

The report, published in late June, offers recommendations to adopt digital ID systems focusing on collaboration with the financial services industry. Among FSDC’s advice is implementing Hong Kong’s iAM Smart, a smartphone biometrics-based digital identity platform, and developing private digital ID wallets. Other recommendations include establishing a digital ID ecosystem trust framework to ensure interoperability and harmonizing digital ID standards for cross-border interactions.

The iAM Smart has amassed 2.6 million users since its launch in 2020. Hong Kong has been exploring how the platform could interact with systems in mainland China under the Cross-boundary Public Services initiative. The initiative allows Hong Kong residents to log into the government service network in the neighboring Guangdong province. In April, the government announced a significant upgrade of the iAM Smart mobile app and the establishment of a data-sharing platform.

Singapore banishes OTPs for bank logins

Hong Kong’s main rival for the status of Asia’s most important financial hub, Singapore, is also making moves to protect identity in banking.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) announced that Singaporean banks will start phasing out One-Time Passwords (OTPs) for bank account logins as a measure against phishing.

OTPs were introduced as a multi-factor authentication option in the 2000s but since then, fraudsters have gotten more proficient in obtaining customers’ OTPs through scams like fake bank websites. Customers should instead activate digital tokens on their mobile devices, MAS says.

Australia backs World Bank’s digital ID infrastructure in Pacific

Pacific counties surrounding Australia have been affected by a wave of financial institutions withdrawing or reducing banking services. To combat this issue, Australia’s Treasury has pledged AU$6.3 million (US$4.2 million) aimed at incentivizing banks to continue their operations – including AU$2.9 million ($1.9 million) that will be allocated to the World Bank to help develop digital identity infrastructure.

Aside from the World Bank, funding will go to the Asian Development Bank which will receive AU$1.7 million ($1.1 million) for boosting anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing compliance. Another AU$1.7 million will be given to criminal justice and law enforcement agencies.

“Our strategy is to build more resilient banking infrastructure, bolster its integrity and boost private sector investment,” Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers said at the Pacific Banking Forum in Brisbane on Tuesday.

Due to banking issues, foreign workers in Australia have been facing difficulties in sending money home. Another reason for maintaining Australian banks’ presence in the Pacific is concerns that China may seize the opportunity to spread its influence in the region, according to News Corp Australia.

Vietnam biometric banking introduction of attracts scammers

Since implementing a new rule in July mandating authentication with face biometrics for transactions above a certain amount, Vietnamese banks have been rapidly onboarding their customers using biometric verification. Scammers, however, are finding new ways to trick bank customers and access their biometrics.

Fraudsters have been impersonating bankers and guiding customers through biometric authentication in order to gain access to their funds and personal information such as identity cards, Saigon News reports.

Police in Ho Chi Minh City have uncovered scammers impersonating bankers, making video calls for facial verifications and collecting voice and gestures. The fraudsters also sent unknown links to download apps and collect biometrics on smartphones.

Ho Chi Minh police forces recommend bank customers not to provide OTP codes, bank account passwords, or personal information to anyone, including banks. The Cu Chi District Police will cooperate with the Military Commercial Joint Stock Bank (MB Bank) to support customers in setting up biometrics authentication in banking apps.

Last week, Vietnamese banks announced they had completed biometric verification for over 13 million customers in just two days.

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