Speaker Romualdez issues clarion call to combat cyberattacks on gov’t institutions

April 29, 2024 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 141 views

SPEAKER Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Monday sounded a clarion call to confront head-on the relentless barrage of cyberattacks targeting vital government institutions.

In his speech during the resumption of session, Speaker Romualdez emphasized the pervasive nature of cyber threats, whether originating domestically or internationally.

“Panahon na para labanan ang mga cyber-warriors na umaatake sa ating mga institusyon. Nandito man sila o nasa labas ng ating bansa,” said the leader of the 300 plus-strong House of Representatives.

With a sense of urgency, Speaker Romualdez underscored the need to strengthen the nation’s cybersecurity to protect both government and the Filipino people from immediate threats.

“Palalakasin natin ang cybersecurity command ng ating bansa para masigurong ligtas ang ating mga institusyon at mga mamamayan sa anumang banta,” he stressed.

Speaker Romualdez’s impassioned plea follows escalating cyberattacks targeting critical government institutions, posing significant risks to sensitive information integrity and confidentiality.

These institutions include the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), the Philippine Statistics Authority, the Department of Science and Technology, the Philippine National Police, and the Bureau of Customs, among others.

In September 2023, PhilHealth experienced a ransom attack on its servers, with hackers demanding a $300,000 ransom for the stolen data.

When the government refused to pay, hackers exposed the data on the dark web. PhilHealth disclosed that personal data of 13 to 20 million individuals may have been compromised in the attack.

The House also fell victim to cyberattacks when its website was hacked in October 2023.

Five months later, on March 13, the House website faced 541.66 million cyberattacks but successfully repelled them.

Officials said the attacks aimed to disrupt normal operations by overwhelming the site with internet traffic, rendering it inaccessible to the public.

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, Speaker Romualdez stressed the necessity of formulating immediate measures to complement the National Cybersecurity Plan and enhance government countermeasures against cyber threats.

“Given the unabated incidents of cybersecurity threats, it is imperative that we formulate remedial measures with urgency to complement and support the implementation of the National Cybersecurity Plan,” Speaker Romualdez said.

To effectively address the issue, Speaker Romualdez announced a congressional inquiry to gather insights and formulate legislative measures aimed at strengthening government cybersecurity defenses.

The Committee on Information and Communications Technology is scheduled on Tuesday to commence hearings on several resolutions addressing cyberattacks targeting critical government institutions.

The Speaker underscored the significance of examining the characteristics and extent of cyberattacks, stating that the inquiry will provide valuable perspectives on the evolving cyber threat landscape confronting government entities.

Based on the findings and recommendations stemming from the inquiry, House members will craft remedial legislation to bolster the government’s defenses against cybersecurity threats.

The legislation may include provisions for enhancing cybersecurity protocols, strengthening information security infrastructure, promoting greater collaboration between government agencies and cybersecurity experts, and implementing stricter penalties for cyber crimes.

Speaker Romualdez said the legislative process offers an opportunity for stakeholders to contribute their expertise and perspectives, ensuring that resulting measures are comprehensive, effective, and responsive to the evolving nature of cyber threats.

He said the ultimate goal is to fortify the government’s ability to safeguard sensitive information, protect critical infrastructure, and preserve the integrity of digital systems in the face of emerging cyber risks.