Google and McAfee estimate that around 2,000 cyber-attacks occur each day across the globe, costing the world economy about $460 billion a year according to BBC News report. Countries, big and small are vulnerable to cyber attacks including the Philippines.
In 2013, two days before the May 13 elections, the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Philippine News Agency websites became inaccessible to the public. GMA Network’s technical security team detected an overnight cyber attack that temporarily paralyzed several government websites including privately owned websites such as GMA News Online, ABS-CBN News, Philippine Airlines, Globe, and Smart. GMA linked the attacks to a Taiwanese webpage. Taiwan reacted negatively to the accusation and demanded an apology.
Almost all the affected websites at that time were subjected to a “Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)” attack. It didn’t seem like simple hacking because there was clear intent of bringing the sites down.
Fermin de Leon Jr., president of the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) said that cyber threats could have negative effects on efforts to sustain growth achieved by the country. Cyber attacks could destroy gains of economic growth and discourage investors. When businessmen and foreign investors do not feel secure about their investments due to prevalence of cyber attacks, they may decide to bring their business to other countries. De Leon calls all sectors to work together to deal with the threats and risks of cyber attacks.
“For example, if the banking and financing system is paralyzed by a cyber attack, you can imagine the cost in terms of millions of pesos and dollars per minute or per hour,” De Leon mentioned in an interview.
“This (threat) can really affect our economy and even the defense and security. You can just extend your imagination on the magnitude of what a cyber attack can do,” he added.
Cyber security efforts by government sector
In September 2015, President Benigno S. Aquino III created the National Cybersecurity Inter-Agency Committee (NCIC) to assess the vulnerabilities of the country’s cybersecurity under Executive Order No. 189. NCIC is under the Office of the President and chaired by the Executive Secretary and co-chaired by the Director General of the National Security Council and the Secretary of Department of Science and Technology.
The following are some of the significant tasks of the recently formed committee:
- Coordinate government agencies in coming up with proper and effective measures to strengthen their cybersecurity capabilities
- Update security protocols to all government employees involved in the storage, handling and distribution of all forms of documents and communications
- Enhance the public-private partnership in the field of information sharing, involving cyberattacks, threats and vulnerabilities to cyber threats
- Conduct periodic strategic planning and workshop activities that will lessen the country’s vulnerabilities to cyber threats
- Serve as the country’s coordinating arm in domestic, international and transnational efforts on cybersecurity
The other members of the committee include secretaries of the finance, foreign affairs, justice, transportation and communication and the interior and local government departments.
Efforts by private sector
Private citizens are encouraged to strengthen security efforts to protect private data and information from hackers and cybercriminals. Here are several tips to protect your digital and online data from being stolen.
- Create a strong and unique passphrase. Combine alphanumeric characters and upper and lower case letters. Avoid using passwords that are similar to your username and personal information such as name, birthday, name of another family member, city you live in, etc.
- It is not advisable to use only one password for multiple websites. This practice can make you more vulnerable to cyber attacks. A hacker can use your password to access your accounts.
- Use two-factor authentication for logging into your accounts to verify your identity.
- Regularly update computers, laptops and gadgets to ensure that your software and network are up to date. Update operating systems, anti-virus software, web browsers, firewalls, and others to strengthen defense system.
- Be careful before downloading anything from the Internet (music, movies, games, etc.) and installing apps. There are malwares and apps that can target your personal information.
- When using public computers, make sure that you log out properly from websites that you visit.
- Ensure that the website is secure before entering personal information. The prefix https:// and the small padlock symbol before the web address in the URL bar indicates that the website is secure.
- Do not send private information (credit card numbers, bank account numbers, social security number, etc.) via email. Hackers can intercept the email and use it to access your accounts.
- Be aware of phishing scams that can steal information or install malwares. There are websites that are designed to look like regular sites or normal email to entice victims to share personal data.
Photo c/o Pixabay. Public domain.
Rachel Yapchiongco, also known as Rach to her friends, is a Psychology and Marketing Management graduate of De La Salle University. Rachel is a full-time mom to a charming young boy and married to an entrepreneur who has a passion for cooking. She shares parenting experiences and slices of everyday life on her personal blog called Heart of Rachel.