PHL at risk of cyberattacks, DICT asks for higher budget

THE Philippines is vulnerable to cyberattacks and threats, the chief of the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) admitted to senators on Tuesday.

During the committee level hearing for the budget of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), CICC Executive Director Alexander K. Ramos revealed that the cybersecurity measures that the Philippine government has in place are not enough to fully protect the Philippine cyberspace.

“Are we vulnerable to cyberattacks?” Senator Raffy Tulfo asked Ramos.

“We are—that is why we are trying to increase our capability,” Ramos replied.

The CICC, an attached agency under the DICT, is responsible for the prosecution of cybercrime.

“Since we assumed office, we have developed a team that will concentrate on [being] application experts. In the same manner the forensics group was given a new mission to concentrate on hardware exploits,” Ramos said. “These moves are needed to preempt possible intrusions in the future.”

The two teams are only “weeks old,” Ramos noted.

Complementary to the CICC is the Cybersecurity Bureau of the DICT, a unit that is tasked to create a safe and secure digital environment in the country.

The two units are working separately, as they have different mandates.

ICT Undersecretary for Special Concerns Paul Joseph V. Mercado also told senators led by Sen. Grace Poe, who chairs the Public Services committee, that there have been “incidents” of cyber threats and attacks on the Philippines.

He noted, however, that the government’s cybersecurity initiatives are complemented by private sector’s own cybersecurity programs.

Over the past few years, the Philippines reported several huge cyberattacks that compromised the data of millions of Filipinos, including the infamous Comeleak hack and WannaCry infection, among others.

Today, Filipinos are being bombarded—almost on a daily basis—with personalized text scams, which according to telcos are coming from foreign actors.

Tulfo pleaded with other senators to provide the DICT with higher budget allocations for 2023 to ensure that the Philippine cyberspace is safe and secure.

“We really should give them more budget,” he said.

The DICT was initially seeking P40.34 billion in national government allocations for 2023, but under the National Expenditure Program, it was only granted a total of P8.8 billion, part of which includes the automatic allotments from spectrum user fees.