DICT seeks intel funds for stronger cyber security

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 22 2023 08:17 PM

MANILA — The Senate Committee on Science and Technology on Monday tackled 42 pending bills that seek to strengthen internet connectivity in the country, as well as protect people using the internet.

Senator Raffy Tulfo stressed the need to ensure safe internet technology.

“In this digital age, where our reliance on information and communications technology has become indispensable, napa-panahon na po para ating protektahan ang ating mga critical information infrastructure. Dito po naka-salalay ang economic stability at national security ng ating bansa, at ang privacy ng ating mga kababayan. We must acknowledge the ever-growing threats posed by cybercriminals, who are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their malicious activities,” Tulfo said.

Panel chairman Senator Alan Peter Cayetano echoed such stand, as he cited the incidents of senators and diplomats who were allegedly subjected to hacking and scamming.

Undersecretary David Almirol of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said while their agency is working to speed up the realization of the administration’s “Digital Philippines” program, what slows them down is the reality that agencies have their own computerization projects and processes.

The DICT, according to Almirol, guards the cyber-security of 455 agencies and bureaus, 178 state universities and colleges, 108 government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), and 1,600 local government units.

“So there's a possibility na pwedeng maglagay ng virus doon sa pagbibilhan ng equipment na bibilhin natin na pagdating sa target recipient saka pagaganahin ang virus? Is there a way na maharang natin?” Tulfo asked.

“Yes... Dapat sana before magdala ng equipment dapat nagkaroon ng tehnical (check) but I don’t believe we're doing that... We don’t even know pagdating ng equipment may listener na yan, meron na palang nakalagay na listener, hindi sya nagha-hack, pero kinukuha pa rin nya ang data,” Almirol replied.

The Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) in the same hearing said the National Grid Corporation of the Philippine (NGCP) has the mandate to check or evaluate all the equipment being entered into the country by the State Grid Corporation of China, which controls 40 percent shares in the NGCP.

“Pag may pumapasok na piyesa galing China, ginagamit ng generators and distributors. These are being checked by NGCP. Sila nagpapapasok. They have grid integrity test,” ARTA Deputy Director General Ranindranath Quilala said.

Amid the situation, the DICT officials appealed to the Senate and the House of Representatives to consider granting their agency confidential and intelligence funds.

“Cyber-security is not after the fact... hindi yung saka lang tayo magre-react pag tapos na. Ang hirap kasi sa atin hahabulin pag nangyari na. It’s really frustrating... if we have the access to hack them first, we can tell them that you can be hacked,” Almirol said.

“Maganda na magkaroon ng confi at intel funds and intel fund to ensure cybersecurity," he added.

The Senate Science and Technology Committee will continue deliberating on the said measures.