Philippines Boosts Defenses Against Cyber Attacks, Laundering
06 Jun 2016

The Philippine central bank is expanding its cyber-security unit, placing banks and money changers under tighter scrutiny, and will start to regulate digital currencies to ward off laundering and technology crimes.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas will tighten its oversight of foreign-exchange dealers and remittance companies in the next two to three months, Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla told a forum in Mactan City, Cebu, on Saturday.

Virtual currencies like bitcoin, which are currently unregulated and are used in transactions that have increased to at least $2 million a month, will be covered by a 2005 circular that will be amended, he said. Espenilla said he estimates that the Philippines is the third-largest user of bitcoin, partly because of the volume of funds sent by Filipinos working overseas, which last year climbed to $25.8 billion.

The Philippines has been in the spotlight after one of the largest bank heists in modern history, where thieves hacked into Bangladesh Bank’s account at the U.S. Federal Reserve in February and routed $81 million to accounts at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. The funds were transferred by a remittance company into gaming halls.

The central bank is bolstering defenses and imposing more stringent rules “in light of recent developments,” Espenilla said. The regulator will require financial institutions to strictly run checks on their customers at all times, Espenilla said.

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