Weak cyber security is a risk to Philippines' US BPO workforce: USAID

Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 12 2022 08:33 PM

MANILA - The Philippines' cyber security landscape is looking bleak, putting tens of thousands of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) workforce at risk, according to a report by United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

This was after various stakeholders presented a snapshot of the country's poor Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure at the launch of the National Cybersecurity Plan 2022 Assessment Survey.

According to a report put together by USAID's Better Access and Connectivity (BEACON), the Philippines is "poised to jeopardize" the US portion of its BPO market. US BPO contracts make up 75 percent of the $23-billion Philippine BPO market.

The Philippines is one of the least cyber-secure countries in Asia to work from, according to a study conducted by an online marketing firm, Reboot Digital PR Agency.

The study placed the Philippines ninth with 19 monthly drive-by downloads and an average of 880 malware-hosting sites online, which is 20 sites more per 100,000 URLs than that of its relatively close neighbor, Malaysia — which ranks third.

Recently, Global Security company, Kaspersky Lab, identified the Philippines as the top target of banking malware in the Asia-Pacific region. The country has the highest number of users attacked by banking Trojans malware.

USAID BEACON, in its presentation to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), pointed out that the Philippines should invest in its cyber security capacity to better equip the country to weather increasing and relentless cyber-attacks and information security breaches.

"The data points that were shared in the report were more notional and indicative rather than very specific, but by implementing some of our recommendations... (such as) encouraging more professionals in the cybersecurity professionals in the public sector. The way to do that is to ensure that there are specific job descriptions that relate to cybersecurity functions that pay and retain cybersecurity professionals," said John Garrity, Chief of Party USAID's BEACON Activity.

Garrity added that in the United States alone, there are more than 700,000 open cybersecurity positions, and the shortage is even more acute in developing countries such as the Philippines, where technical talent gaps are the largest.

USAID's BEACON concluded that the Philippines' cyber ecosystem might be "deadlocked" if the current situation continues. 

IBM added that the country might have "great difficulty" recruiting and retaining cyber talent within the national government.

The DICT meanwhile admitted that the country is still in the "infancy stage" when it comes to cybersecurity, as the agency itself was created only in 2016.

“We are trying to get grants from other countries in order to capacitate our agency,” said DICT Undersecretary Paul Joseph Mercado.

Mercado also underscored the importance of incorporating cybersecurity issues in schools.

DICT said it will publish the National Cybersecurity plan early next year, which will be applicable until 2028.


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