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Philippines steps up defences against Chinese hackers after ‘cyberwar’ warning from telecoms security chief | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker


Following a recent spate of cyberattacks blamed on Chinese hackers, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jnr has unveiled a six-year plan to step up cybersecurity and counter the risks posed by digital intrusions from abroad.

The plan, announced on Sunday, stresses the “need for operational guidelines” and the urgent need for existing mechanisms to be enhanced to deter cyberattacks.

It comes after the official Facebook account of the Philippines’ coastguard was hacked on March 29. An “unidentified entity” posted several “malicious” short videos to the account before the government regained control of it six days later, according to coastguard spokesman Rear Admiral Armand Balilo.

Hackers help Philippines’ understaffed cyberdefence team fight China threat

It was the second time the coastguard’s Facebook account had been hit this year. Hackers also gained control of the account in February, less than two weeks after the coastguard’s official account on X, formerly Twitter, was also hacked.

Marcos Jnr’s own website, the email server of the Philippine Department of Information and Communications Technology and the website of National Coast Watch Centre were also all targeted by hackers in January, according to The Philippine Star newspaper.

“We are not attributing this to any state. But using the internet protocol addresses, we pinpointed it to China,” Renato Paraiso, spokesman for the Department of Information and Communications Technology, said in February.

He said investigators had traced the hackers and suspected they were using the services of Chinese state-owned telecoms company China Unicom.

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China denies accusations of state-sponsored hacking from US, UK and New Zealand

China denies accusations of state-sponsored hacking from US, UK and New Zealand

Chinese officials have denied any involvement in the cyberattacks on Philippine government websites, and offered help in locating the suspects in China.

Martina Tagacay, a data protection consultant for the Philippine government, said the coastguard’s website and social-media accounts were most likely targeted because of Manila’s disputes with Beijing over the South China Sea.

But it was “too early” to conclude that Chinese hackers were behind the attacks, although “publicly we know China has interest in the coastguard’s activities in the West Philippine Sea” added Tagacay, who is also a retired professor of computer studies at Notre Dame University in the southern Philippines, using Manila’s name for the parts of the South China Sea that fall within its exclusive economic zone.

We are in the middle of a cyberwar … we need the government to orchestrate our efforts

Angel Redoble, PLDT’s chief information security officer

Art Sarmiento, a technology editor at the Manila Bulletin newspaper, said the coastguard had to take comprehensive measures to fortify its digital defences, including through non-technical means.

“There is a need to educate staff on identifying phishing scams, adopting secure practices, and recognising suspicious activities,” Sarmiento said.

The Philippines has seen a number of major cyberattacks in recent months.

In October last year, the personal information – including names, addresses and dates of birth – of up to 20 million members of state insurer Philippine Health Insurance was leaked online following a cyberattack.

Millions of Malaysians shun subsidy-linked database over hacking fears

The country’s biggest telecoms company, PLDT, and its wireless unit Smart Communications have said the number of cyberattacks on their infrastructure rose by nearly 9,000 per cent last year, from 182 million cases in 2022 to 16 billion in 2023.

“We are in the middle of a cyberwar. Private entities and government units must collaborate, and we need the government to orchestrate our efforts,” PLDT’s chief information security officer Angel Redoble said in January.

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