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Major bank reports ‘ferocious’ cyber attacks since COVID-19

A big four bank has said that it has been fighting millions of “ferocious” cyber threats and seen a 78 per cent increase in fraud attempts over recent months.

According to the group chief risk officer of National Australia Bank (NAB), Shaun Dooley, the bank has seen a surge in cyber attacks and fraudulent activity in 2020.

Speaking at the House of Representatives standing committee on economics’ ongoing review of Australia’s four major banks and other financial institutions last Friday afternoon (11 September), Mr Dooley revealed that NAB had seen a 78 per cent increase in fraud attempts, and a 33 per cent increase in estimated loss in the period May to June. 

Mr Dooley outlined that “in really challenging economic conditions, you do see more attempts” at fraudulent activity and cyber attacks.

“Unfortunately, there are a number of people that are probably preying on the vulnerability of customers at the moment. We’re certainly seeing fraud attempts on our customers increase. There’s been a significant increase in scams, phishing attempts and so on,” the group chief risk officer said.


The chief executive officer of NAB, Ross McEwan, added that the uplift in criminal activity was both from direct cyber attacks on the bank and also “fraudulent activity against a customer to get them to hand over details so that they can take money out of their accounts”.

“We’ve seen attacks both on us as a bank and our subsidiaries, trying to slow down the bank and get into our systems, which to date they haven’t been able to take the data out of. But you’re seeing a ferocity of those attacks,” the CEO said.

According to Mr McEwan, in the first quarter of this year, NAB blocked 197 million cyber threats and over 41,000 attempts of data theft. 

In the second quarter, the bank reportedly blocked 261 million attacks. 

“These are massive numbers trying to attack a bank... These are ferocious attacks on us as an institution, just as they will be on any other firm, I suspect, that holds customer data for payments.”


Given the uplift in threats, the CEO said that the bank is currently spending $70 million a year in cyber security and fraud to uplift its own internal capabilities.

“Because it’s vital that we remain a safe and stable institution that people can’t get at. We’re determined to make sure that people don’t break into this bank and get data,” Mr McEwan said.

Likewise, Mr Dooley added: “We invest heavily in our cyber security. We employ hundreds of people and spend a lot of money every year not only to protect ourselves, but also to protect our customers in terms of fraud, and that investment continues to increase.”

The banking heads outlined that NAB has been running webinars for customers on how to protect themselves from cyber attacks, while bankers have been “making customers aware of the types of things and forms that these attacks are taking”.

Mr McEwan concluded: “There are some very, very sad cases where customers have been attacked and had their vulnerabilities preyed on. We’re having to be more and more vigilant on behalf of customers, and so are our colleagues. It’s a tough thing to be dealing with at the moment, and it’s not going to go away.”

[Related: COVID heightening bank vulnerability to cyber attack]

Major bank reports ‘ferocious’ cyber attacks since COVID-19
Major bank reports ‘ferocious’ cyber attacks since COVID-19

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Annie Kane

Annie Kane is the editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business.

As well as writing about the Australian broking industry, the mortgage market, financial regulation, fintechs and the wider lending landscape – Annie is also the host of the Elite Broker and In Focus podcasts and The Adviser Live webcasts. 

Contact Annie at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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