PH verifying possible North Korean cyber breach: DICT

Katrina Domingo ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 04 2017 03:41 PM

MANILA - The government is validating reports that North Korean hackers tried to launch cyber attacks against the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), a government cybersecurity official said Saturday.

DICT Assistant Secretary Allan Cabanlong told ABS-CBN News that the alleged breach has yet to be confirmed as the DOST's Advanced Science and Techonology Institute (DOST-ASTI) did not issue a report on a system breach.

"Walang report, ibig sabihin hindi nila na-detect... If ever man meron silang report, hindi dumating sa'min," he said.

Cabanlong said DICT's cybersecurity bureau will launch an inquiry Monday after news site Quartz reported on a study indicating that "some North Korean users were conducting research, or possibly even network reconnaissance, on a number of foreign laboratories and research centers" including India's Space Research Organization and the Philippines' DOST.

The reported North Korean hacks are part of the reclusive regime's efforts to attack its enemies, as it continued to resist international pressure against its persistent nuclear missile tests. 

Cabanlong said they are on the lookout for possible distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that shut down certain websites as a form of a "diversionary tactic."

"Kung sa physical war, 'yan (DDoS) 'yung tear gas o smoke grenade. Mag-shut off 'yung website for a specific period (but) at the back end, meron na akong pinapapasok na malware (sa website) to control the system," he said.

Research and academic institutes are often targeted because they tend to focus on the website's contents and not on its security features, Cabanlong said.

Earlier this year, the DICT directed all government agencies, telecommunication companies, banks, schools, hospitals, and other institutions to have network security administrators and systems that would regularly monitor possible cyber attacks and breaches.

Cabanlong said DICT's cybersecurity bureau only has an "oversight function" as the government cannot protect all computer systems in the country.

"No single agency can do it alone," he said.

The DICT has yet to produce a record of how many government agencies and private companies in the Philippines are vulnerable to breaches.

Cabanlong said a National Cyberintelligence Center will be put up next year as soon as his office receives its P500 million funding under the 2018 budget.

For now, the cybersecurity bureau is working on "band-aid solutions" while funds and personnel are still unavailable, he said.