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Central Government, Information Security, Policy

Hackers raise cyber security fears in Philippines

The vulnerability of the Philippines’ government web sites was again exposed by hackers last week, prompting renewed calls for the introduction of a Cybercrime Bill which has been on the legislative backburner for a decade.


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Ivan Uy, the recently appointed Chairman of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), is to hold meetings with the ICT chairs of the House of Congress to discuss how the Cybercrime bill, which would bring in greater powers to detect, investigate and punish cyber crimes, could be made law.

Uy was a supporter of the Cybercrime Bill when he was CIO of the Supreme Court.

The Cybercrime Bill has been amended 10 times since 2000, mostly because of disagreement over what constitutes a computer crime. Opponents say the proposed law could lead to a clampdown on citizen privacy and freedom of expression.

Last week’s hacker attack on the Philippine Information Agency’s portal will put further pressure on legislators to review the bill. The site was down for several hours on August 29th with the words “Hacked by 7z1” appearing if searched for on Google. An error message was displayed whenever a user tried to enter PIA’s website.

In the same week, the local government web site of Bulacan, a major province north of Manila, was infiltrated by a Chinese hacker who demanded an apology for the Manila hostage tragedy that led to the death of eight Hong Kong tourists on 23rd August.

The personal Facebook account of President Benigno Aquino’s, which is linked to his official website, has also been attacked over the hostage tragedy, prompting the President to censor his Facebook page.

This is not the first time that government web sites have been hacked this year. In January, hackers defaced the home page of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) web site.

One month before this breach, the web sites of the Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Justice, the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, and the Information Technology and Electronic Commerce Council were also hacked.

Earlier this year, the CICT set up the National Cyber Security Office (NCSO) to formulate and implement national cyber security plans.

The NCSO has plans to set up a national network of sensors to monitor hacking behaviour, and has launched C-Safe, a cyber security awareness campaign.

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On 9 September 2010 Odick Suarez wrote:

Majority of the government agencies have been investing on various ICT applications over the past years highlight its increased (and still increasing) reliance on its information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure. Unfortunately and the reality is —the mission-critical ICT systems and ICT Infrastructures have not been properly audited and the status of security level have not been assessed. I am not sure if there is any government office in the Philippines whose ICT operation is being guided by an Information Security Management System (ISMS). I believe this is one thing that CICT should look into. Kudos with all the investments but having no approved ISMS means FUTILE ICT system.

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