By Vernon Pillay for IOL
Debt-IN, a debt recovery solutions partner to many South African financial services institutions, including African Bank, has announced that a ransomware attack by cybercriminals has resulted in a significant data breach of consumer and employee personal information.
It is suspected that consumer and personal information of more than 1.4 million South Africans were illegally accessed from Debt-IN servers in April this year.
It should be noted that this breach only came to light last week with the discovery that confidential consumer data and voice recordings of calls between Debt-IN debt recovery agents and financial services customers had been posted on hidden internet sites that are only accessible by a specialised web browser.
According to Debt-IN, the company is working closely with the regulator, law enforcement agencies and other cyber-security partners to rapidly gather facts, resolve the issue and provide ongoing information to clients.
Earlier on Wednesday, African Bank confirmed that one of its appointed professional debt recovery partners, Debt-IN, was targeted by cybercriminals in April 2021.
According to a statement by the bank, Debt-IN is now aware that the personal data of certain customers, including a number of African Bank Loan customers under debt review, has been compromised.
African bank said that Debt-IN is confident that no data shared post-April 1, 2021, has been compromised.
“A robust mitigation plan has been implemented by Debt-IN to contain and reduce any further adverse impact,” the bank said on Wednesday.
“We have been collaborating with Debt-IN to address this breach. We have notified the relevant regulatory authorities, and we are also in the process of alerting customers who have been affected via email and SMS.”
African Bank customers can call 0861 111 011 if they suspect any fraudulent activity on their accounts.
According to the debt recovery firm: “While the investigations are ongoing and the analysis subject to change, the findings to date show there has been no further breach and enhanced data protection measures remain securely in place.”
“The company has taken immediate and appropriate actions to reinforce existing security measures and to mitigate any further potential impacts of the breach, including assembling a team of highly regarded and globally experienced cyber breach and forensic experts to work with Debt-IN on the incident.”
“Debt-IN deeply regrets this cyberattack, and we apologise unreservedly for the inconvenience and anxiety this the data breach has caused our clients, and their customers,” says Mark Essey, CEO.
“We are taking this matter very seriously. In this age of highly sophisticated information security threats and an estimated 17 billion cyberattacks around the world every day, Debt-IN is committed to doing all it can to protect clients’ information.
By Londiwe Buthelezi for News24
One of South Africa’s new banking challengers, African Bank has joined a long list of companies who have to let go of their staff because of Covid-19.
African Bank announced on Tuesday that it has started retrenchment consultation processes with the banking sector union, Sasbo. The bank anticipated that the Section 189A consultations will affect 1 269 of its 3 728 employees.
The bank said it anticipates a job loss ratio of approximately 25% of those number affected meaning that ultimately around 317 people or 8% of its staff members may be out of jobs at the end of these consultations.
“The Covid-19 outbreak and the associated protracted lockdown intensified the dire state of the economy. Given the financial pressure faced by our customers the bank has recorded a reduction in sales as well as collections, which has created excess capacity across the different business units,” wrote the bank in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.
The bank had just entered the transactional banking space in 2019, trying to diversify its revenue streams beyond investments and loans that it was traditionally known for.
But the state of its lending book took the limelight away from the new venture in this year’s interim results when the bank announced that it had already experienced a 25% reduction in debt collections.
But on Tuesday, African Bank said the automation of its businesses processes also played a role in considering retrenchments. The gradual automating of certain tasks and customers increased usage of digital by customers had led to staff redundancies. In 2019, African Bank CEO, Basani Maluleke said the bank was training an army of 29 data analysts who would join the bank earlier this year and help it accelerate its digital banking game.
But African Bank was still adamant that there will always be a space to grow brick-and-mortar branches as it opened a new branch in Sandton City at the time.
However, on Tuesday, African Bank said the Covid-19 impact and the redundancies created by digitisation have made it imperative to restructure its operations and hence enter into consultations which may lead to the loss of jobs.
“We have been deliberate in reducing costs in all areas of our business. The undertaking of a consultation process with our employees is the last resort to further reduce costs. Our intention throughout the process will be to consider appropriate measures to avoid and minimise potential job terminations,” said Maluleke in the statement.
She added that the bank’s services to customers will not be affected by the retrenchments.
The introduction of MyWORLD has elevated African Bank to a digital retail bank, offering a variety of products including transactional banking, personal loans, savings and investments and insurance.
African Bank chief executive, Basani Maluleke said: “Our increased and diversified product offering, underpinned by our Omni-channel platform, will enable us to compete favourably against the established and emerging banks.”
African Bank’s research into what South Africans want from their transactional bank revealed that people would like to transact and save together with their family, friends and their community and as individuals.
MyWORLD offers people the unique ability to bank together through shared banking.
Up to five additional accounts can be opened under the main account – a total of six accounts, with no monthly account fees on any of the accounts.
“When we compare ourselves to the Solidarity Bank Charges Report methodology, MyWORLD is the cheapest transactional account in South Africa,” explains Maluleke.
When a Primary Account Holder opens a MyWORLD account, they get access to a Primary account and two types of pockets – a power pocket and a savings pocket.
A power pocket is unique in that it is the first pocket account in the industry to offer the user full transaction capability. It comes with its own account number, debit card and PIN and earns 5.5 percent interest per annum on positive balances.
“Our debit cards are personalised and embossed and are issued instantly on demand, in any African Bank branch — a first in South Africa,” said George Roussos, group executive of digital and transactional banking at African Bank.
The savings pocket allows the primary account holder to save at South Africa’s best interest rate of 6.5 percent interest per annum on any positive balance while enjoying immediate access to their funds.
A pocket user, who can be anyone that the primary account holder designates, can be added to both a savings pocket and a power pocket. User status allows the person full access to the pocket. The primary account holder can also decide who is responsible for the pay-as-you-use transaction fees on each pocket.
As an added extra, the primary account holder can add up to 10 members on any pocket. Member status allows the member to view the pocket and to deposit, but not to withdraw or transfer any funds. This functionality can be used by informal savings clubs, church groups and any collection of people wishing to save together for a shared trip or activity.
Another key differentiator is that MyWORLD operates on African Bank’s new omni-channel platform that allows accounts to be opened and managed seamlessly through all the Bank’s channels, including the website, app, cellphone, in the branches and through the contact centres.
A customer can open a MyWORLD account online or via the app without having to visit the branch and seamlessly complete the application in a branch or contact centre. The only requirement to come into branch is to generate and receive their MyWORLD debit card.
The final drawcard is value.
MyWORLD account holders only pay for what they use and a range of free transactions and low bank fees on other transactions are offered. All costs are transparently displayed.
Maluleke said: “MyWORLD provides exceptional value and convenience at the cheapest price compared to what is currently available from other South African banks. Its innovative features provide a mechanism to share banking in families, groups and in communities, which we believe will draw a very positive response from customers.”