INTERNATIONAL think tank Stratbase Institute on Sunday urged the administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to develop a substantial pool of cybersecurity experts to bolster the country’s cybersecurity capabilities in protecting its data, investment, and critical infrastructure.
“It’s essential to enhance our existing talent pool and elevate the expertise of our IT professionals. We should also consider engaging the services of ethical hackers to bolster our cybersecurity frameworks,” Stratbase Group CEO and Founder Prof. Victor Andres Manhit said in a press statement.
Manhit pointed out that cyber criminals are becoming more sophisticated and cunning, and will immediately seize the opportunity when they see easy targets.
It’s clear, he added, “that fortifying our cyber defenses should be a priority, particularly for critical infrastructure across both public and private sectors. This proactive approach to cybersecurity is a necessary step in safeguarding against the ever-evolving threat of cybercrime.”
In the digital age,Manhit stressed that cybersecurity is a vital investment at all levels, as data breaches are committed on a regular basis. He said businesses must ensure uninterrupted operations and secure data, provide peace of mind and build trust with customers and stakeholders.
According to a 2020 survey conducted by the International Trade Administration, 43 percent of private companies in the Philippines had increased their allocation for cybersecurity solutions. Despite this, according to Manhit, more has to be done.
Moreover, only 27 percent of organizations in the Philippines have a “mature” level of readiness to confront modern cybersecurity risks, according to the Cybersecurity Readiness Index released in March 2023 by information technology firm Cisco.
Manhit also underscored the vital role of Chief Information Security Officers (CISO), for each agency or organization, mandated to maintain the most robust and appropriate protection from hackers and instilling a cyber hygienic culture to all its network users.
However, there is a dearth of cybersecurity professionals with more than 2 million unfilled cybersecurity posts in Asia alone.
Spate of government attacks
In recent weeks, Philippine government agencies have been on the receiving end of breaches starting from the attack on the Philippine Health Insurance Co. (PhilHealth) in September. The Medusa ransomware group demanded $300,000 —roughly P17 million — and made PhilHealth data available on the dark web.
PhilHealth, which admitted it had failed to renew its virus protection software, was only able to fully restore its services this week. Estimates place the number of affected users to between 13 million and 30 million.
“Our government’s capacity to ward off such attacks is being tested, and we seem to be failing that test,” said Manhit.
On October 7, the Philippine Statistics Authority suffered a leak in its Community-Based Monitoring System, even as the agency insisted that the CBMS constituted only a limited portion of its database.
One week later, on October 15, a group that called themselves “MUSKETEERS” altered the website of the House of Representatives. The Senate likewise reported that its system had recently seen a spike in cyberattacks, though these were foiled.