According to the Kaspersky Digital Payment survey, 93% of respondents from the Middle East reported an increase in their use of e-wallet and mobile banking in 2021. COVID-19 was one of the main factors for that: 64% report that they only started using online payments services during the pandemic. In particular, online payment services helped 61% of the respondents to maintain social distancing. Since acquired habits stay with people, 92% of those surveyed intend to use Internet banking and e-wallet services more often even after the end of the pandemic.
Convenience compelled people in the Middle East most to embrace financial technologies – 91% of those surveyed appreciated the ability to pay whenever and wherever they are. 55% also stated that Internet banking and mobile wallet services make it easier to manage financial information.
Another factor that closely correlates to the popularity of digital payment services is the decrease in financial malware attacks in the UAE by more than 70% in 2021 compared to 2020 according to Kaspersky experts. While the decrease in numbers is reassuring, the country also saw an increase in financial malware attacks on Android devices by 42% in 2021 compared to 2020. Given that online services are rapidly growing in size and numbers, new vulnerabilities are welcoming complex cyberattacks.
When asked about their reservations prior to using mobile banking and payment apps, users admitted their fears – afraid of storing their financial data online (37%) and worried that their personal devices are not secured enough (27%). 4 in 10 also revealed they do not trust the security of these platforms. 28% don’t have any reservations at all.
“Digital payment services are gaining more adopters despite the concerns and reservations. The pandemic was an opportunity in disguise for people to understand, learn and use digital payments services at their disposal for their own benefit”, said Emad Haffar, Head of Technical Experts at Kaspersky. “However, as the cashless economy grows and evolves to accommodate the needs of the new normal, it is also important to understand and stay vigilant to the cyber-risks pertaining to online transactions. Since people are becoming increasingly comfortable with accessing digital payment applications, app developers and providers should now look into cybersecurity gaps at each stage of the payment process and build security features that will win the trust of potential users, as well as keep the existing customers protected at all times”, adds Emad Haffar.
J.K. Khalil, Country General Manager, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Levant at Mastercard, said: “As the world grows increasingly connected through the power of digital transformation, cyberattacks have escalated, leaving people and businesses at risk of financial or reputational damages. As such, it is more vital than ever for industry leaders to act as the first line of defense to create a secure financial ecosystem. At Mastercard, we aim to stay ahead of fraudsters and to continually evolve and enhance our protection of cyber environments for our bank and merchant customers as we work towards a safer future for all.”
To help users in the Middle East embrace digital payment technologies securely, Kaspersky experts suggest the following:
- Do not share your PIN, password or any other financial information with anyone online or offline.
- Avoid using the public Wi-Fi to make any online transactions.
- Use a separate credit or debit card to make online transactions. Set a spending limit on the card which can help keep a track of financial transactions.
- Shop from trusted and official websites
For developers, banks and companies involved in providing digital payment services, Kaspersky recommends:
- Invest in holistic cybersecurity solutions that can help detect fraud across multiple levels of online payment processes and consumer touchpoint.
- Complex attacks by APT groups on financial institutions are also on a rise. In-depth visibility and threat intelligence are a necessity to keep customers protected and to ensure business continuity. Using the Kaspersky Threat Intelligence service is helpful to support your IT teams in analysing and mitigating threats.
- Conduct cyber awareness training for employees continuously. This will help employees know the red flags to look for when an organization is under attack and to understand their role in protecting the organization.
The Kaspersky Digital Payment survey studies our interactions with online payments. It also examines our attitudes towards them, which hold the key to understanding the factors that will further drive or stem the adoption of this technology.
The study was conducted by research agency Toluna across the Middle East, Turkey, South Africa, and Nigeria. Survey responses were gathered in February – March 2022 with a total of 2,004 respondents surveyed across the stated countries.