As more and more Filipinos go online for their financial transactions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, officials have warned of a surge in cybercrime as criminals also adjust to this “new normal.”

“With more commercial transactions going through cyberspace, expect a spike in cybercrime,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said.

But in his capacity as head of the Duterte administration’s economic team, Dominguez already sought law-enforcement help to tighten the watch on potential cybercrime.

“The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have been alerted and have assured me that they have upgraded their capacity to detect, investigate and prosecute cybercriminals,” Dominguez said.

In a July 9 report titled “Cyber risk rises as coronavirus drives increased digital banking and remote work,” debt watcher Moody’s Investors Service said “large-scale shift to digital banking and remote work has accelerated the technology cycle and increased banks’ vulnerability to cyberattacks.”

“The growth in online banking and remote work since the onset of the pandemic has increased banks’ dependence on digital technology to serve customers,” Moody’s said in the report.

“It has also expanded their use of virtual private networks (VPNs) and similar applications and services to support their remote work forces,” the report said.

“Banks have quickly responded to these challenges, but in pursuing an accelerated technology development cycle have also increased their potential vulnerabilities to cyberattack,” it said.

Moody’s said it suspected that “external actors seeking financial gain are the mostly likely cyber actors to target banks.”

“External actors have been the largest perpetrators of cyberattacks on the financial sector,” Moody’s said.

It external factors caused 64 percent of data breaches compared with 35 percent by internal actors, it said.

“Cyber actors most often are trying to get easily monetized data (77 percent of data breaches), as illustrated by the fact that wire fraud transfer remains the most common cyberattack vector,” Moody’s said.

Despite these risks, the government had been enjoining “digital transformation” among businesses and consumers as social distancing restrictions remain enforced to avoid the spread of SARS Cov2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“Digital technology can significantly increase efficiency in business operations and public service delivery,” said acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua.

“Online transactions will now become the new standard for engaging with clients, buyers, and suppliers, therefore, both public and private sectors need to invest in digital technology,” he said at an online press briefing on Friday (July 10).

Chua, also head of the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), said the government also must maximize the benefits of technology on “agriculture value chain.”

This, he said, can be done through these projects:

  • The Department of Agriculture’s eKadiwa, an online marketing platform linking producers and entrepreneurs to consumers
  • Supply Chain Analytics (SCAn) Dashboard
  • SCAn Reporter

“These will help in maintaining price stability through unhampered flow of goods,” added Chua.

But in a presentation, Socioeconomic Planning Undersecretary Rosemarie G. Edillon acknowledged that the Philippines still had low broadband penetration and below-average digital adoption compared with most of its Asean neighbors.

The Philippines, Edillon said, has among the slowest internet speeds despite having one of the most expensive pricing.

Because of this, Edillon said Neda was pushing to “reduce the digital divide by lowering barriers to market entry and increase available spectrum for internet connectivity” and “streamline permit requirements for network deployment to reduce cost.”

For Neda, these reforms can be done by opening up the telco sector to more competition by amending foreign investment and public service laws and passing pending open access in data transmission bills.

TSB



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