Around 10 banks block international payments on debit and credit cards

Updated November 04, 2018

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According to a digital security website, data of over 8,000 account holders of about 10 Pakistani banks was sold in a market of hackers.— File
According to a digital security website, data of over 8,000 account holders of about 10 Pakistani banks was sold in a market of hackers.— File

KARACHI: As concerns about a breach of credit and debit card data spread in the banking circles, around 10 banks have blocked all international transactions on their cards.

Sources said the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has been informed by several commercial banks that they have blocked international payments on debit and credit cards as a precautionary measure after cyber attacks on their clients’ accounts.

According to a digital security website krebsonsecurity.com, data of over 8,000 account holders of about 10 Pakistani banks was sold in a market of hackers.

Speaking to Dawn, Chief Spokesman of State Bank Abid Qamar said that the report regarding account data theft cannot be verified at the moment. He added that unless the alleged data theft is used to steal money from accounts, the report cannot be validated.

However, he did confirm that some banks have stopped international payments on cards as a precautionary measure and they have informed the SBP about this blockage.

A large Pakistani bank sent messages to its clients that online mobile banking services would be terminated for a temporary period from Nov 3 onwards on ‘technical grounds’.

The first cyber attack was reported by BankIslami on Oct 27. The bank said that Rs2.6m was stolen from international payment cards after which it has stopped such transactions and allowed biometrically verified payments only on ATM cards within Pakistan.

Next day the SBP issued directives to all banks to ensure that security measures on all information technology systems — including those related to card operations — are continuously updated to meet future challenges, ensure real-time monitoring of card operations related systems and transactions and immediately coordinate with all the integrated payment schemes, switch operators and media service providers.

“This is a serious problem for the customers who are already in foreign countries. How can they pay their bills where they are staying and how can they pay for the services they have already availed,” said Abid Baloch, a travel agent working in Karachi.

He said the banks must identify other options to making payments against their cards. “This could be disastrous for me if I would have been in Europe or America with a debit card of Pakistani bank who stops payments all of sudden,” he said.

However, a frequent traveler, Nazim Ali, said he never relies on one debit card. “If one card is blocked and or lost, another payment card is an option; plus I usually rely on cash to be on safe side,” he added.

Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2018