PHL still needs to develop talent and infrastructure vs cyber threats, experts say


By Bronte H. Lacsamana

Though the Philippines is on the right track in terms of putting cybersecurity measures in place, there is still a need to educate businesses and continuously develop talent and infrastructure to fight cyberattacks, according to information security experts.

“Organizations must continue to invest in information security. The costs of exploits these days are real and the likelihood of being exploited has dramatically increased,” said William Emmanuel S. Yu, director of the Philippine Computer Emergency Response Team’s coordinating center, at the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Better Access and Connectivity (BEACON) project webinar.

The five-year BEACON project, launched by USAID on Oct. 28, is meant to increase digital connectivity in the Philippines, with the US government, via USAID, investing P1.65 billion in the country’s information and communications technology (ICT) sector.

As of the launch, the goal of the project has been to “assist the government in automation and digitization efforts,” but at the cybersecurity webinar, opinions of cyber experts showed that there’s a need for improvement in security as well.

Mr. Yu specified that with digital payments accounting for 20% of payments in 2020, safety risks have become extremely high.

“We need to educate, educate, educate. User awareness must improve. Users are the first line of defense and the weakest link,” he said.


Seow Hiong Goh, executive director of Cisco’s global policy and government affairs in Asia Pacific, reiterated Cisco’s previous findings that more than half of small and medium businesses (SMBs) have experienced cyberattacks in the past year.

“For most companies, it takes months before they realize they’re being compromised. What’s more insidious is when attackers take data without you knowing,” he explained. “We really have a serious problem here in trying to raise awareness and capabilities.”

Despite this, the Philippine government is already taking action on cybersecurity, according to USAID, which has already been working closely with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) even before the BEACON launch.

“The Philippines has taken steps in the right direction to deal with this problem,” said Jeff Goebel, USAID Philippines’ acting deputy mission director. “DICT has implemented security operations and monitoring systems as well as enhanced its incident response capabilities to actively respond to such threats.”

He added that USAID’s cybersecurity primer, released just a day before the webinar, could brief the agency’s partners such as the Philippine ICT sector on USAID’s updated approaches to cyber threats, cybersecurity, and cyber resilience.

Mr. Goh emphasized the need for all sectors to take notice of the issue of cybersecurity: “It’s not just an ICT, finance, or telecommunications problem. It’s a problem for everyone — anyone who uses digital technology today.”

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