Sunday Read: Passwords, malware and why banks aren't the bad guys

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Sabric CEO Kalyani Pillay
Sabric CEO Kalyani Pillay
Sabric (Supplied)

Almost everyone in South Africa knows the frustrations that can come with banking.

However, South African Banking Risk Information Centre CEO Kalyani Pillay maintains that South African banks do a great job of servicing and protecting their customers and that much of the security risks that come with banking are worsened by a lack of consumer education.

Pillay has been the CEO of Sabric for more than 11 years, since she left the National Prosecuting Authority. Speaking to Fin24 about her work and that of the organisation, Pillay says she has led an agile and growing organisation that assists banks through a unique model to improve security.

"Changes are fast paced. I have been here since December 2007 and have been CEO since. It is certainly a growing and agile organisation. We need to be and we need to adapt as the crime environment changes," Pillay said.

Pillay says protecting banks and their customers from criminals has proven to be a fast-paced endeavour. 

"As we collect stats and information, we analyse and study it to assist banks to know what the current landscape is and how it is evolving. The Sabric model has been an advantage to our members who can collaborate in the fight against such crimes in a non-competitive environment," says Pillay.

Pillay said Sabric’s work is particularly challenging because banks are constantly innovating in terms of what they can offer consumers - and criminals in turn see each innovation as an opportunity to target unsuspecting bank account holders.

"The trend has certainly been that criminals shift their focus to where opportunities present themselves. As bank’s make their services to customers more accessible and convenient, criminals use these very platforms to conduct their criminal activity and steal from bank customers," Pillay said.

She said theft of personal and confidential information was rife and criminals used information they steal or harvest from various sources, to unlawfully access their victim’s bank accounts or utilise their banking facilities.

"This is why public awareness and education is a key focus area for Sabric. We have various campaigns throughout the year to empower bank customers with the latest modus operandi and scams and also provide advice on how to protect oneself against these," she said.

Pillay said banks have seen the positive impact of the measures they have implemented, but often criminals move to other targets. She said the displacement of crime was not uncommon in the banking environment.

"Deploying effective security strategies and measures are expensive. Banks take this very seriously and invest extensively in appropriate measures to protect their systems and their customers. This of course is a moving target and as the crime landscape changes, the banks continuously review their measures and implement the necessary interventions," she said.

Pillay said it is a priority to educate and empower bank customers on how important it is to protect themselves from becoming victims of bank related crimes.

"We are a voluntary organisation and members come to us as they see the value of collaborating and the benefit of economies of scale. While individual member banks have their own crime fighting strategies and plans, they agree on joint strategies and priorities at Sabric," said Pillay.

Pillay said the world has become smaller and with cybercrimes, Sabric is dealing with criminals who are faceless and border-less.

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