PLDT, Palo Alto Networks safeguard children from online abuse using new platform

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 02 2022 03:27 PM | Updated as of Aug 02 2022 05:45 PM

MANILA - PLDT and Smart Communications have partnered with cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks to create a platform that aims to protect children against online sexual abuse and exploitation, company officials said Tuesday.

Since blocking attempts and monitoring at the content level violate privacy laws, PLDT and Smart tapped Palo Alto Networks to create an innovative child protection platform that can block access to child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, ), PLDT and Smart Communications FVP and chief information security officer Angel Redoble told reporters. 

The first-of-its-kind child protection platform detects if a subscriber tries to access blacklisted content, file names or videos containing child sexual abuse materials and will be redirected to the Palo Alto Networks' landing page, Redoble said. 

Since November, the platform has blocked over 1 billion access attempts, he said. 

"With this project, at least we were able to do our part within this partnership to lessen the access that is being made to child sexual abuse materials and also prevent those who are sick in mind in accessing these child sexual abuse materials," Redoble said.

Palo Alto Networks Philippine Country Manager Oscar Visaya said the flagship next generation platform wasn't easy to develop since it has not been done before.

But through its collaboration with its global team of experts as well as with PLDT and Smart, they were able to deliver a platform meant to safeguard children against online abuses.

"I think we’re able to deliver on that commitment and its very satisfying to know that after a year in deployment, I still feel so good about being part of protecting our children in each day that pass. Safer than the day before," Visaya said.

Meanwhile, PLDT and Smart FVP and Corporate Communications Head Cathy Yang said beyond its cybersecurity and efforts to combat online child abuse, protecting the young is integral in how they do business.

The telco implements policy, technology, partnerships and community engagements focused on child protection on the internet, she said. 

"Child rights considerations are thus embedded into our group-wide stakeholder engagements and impact assessment efforts particularly to make sure that children get the best value when using our connectivity services and can get to be safeguarded from the potential risks and harms in the digital space," Yang said. 

In 2020, the Philippines was listed as the largest known source of online child sexual exploitation, based on a 7-year study by the International Justice Mission.

In some cases parents and relatives were responsible for the abuses, the report said. 

Palo Alto Networks and PLDT have been engaged in educating the public on cybersecurity, which Visaya said should start in children while they're still in school. 

Yang and Redoble said protecting children is a collaborative and continued effort since fraudsters also evolve. 

Companies have been beefing up investments in online child protection as they recognized the fact that children are among the most vulnerable internet users. 

-- with a report from Agence France-Presse

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