Gatchalian worried for security of critical infrastructure amid cyberattacks

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday expressed concern for the security of critical public service infrastructure following the recent cyberattacks on government agencies, and said he wants the DICT’s confidential funds restored to its proposed 2024 budget.

In an interview with reporters, Gatchalian said the hacking of government sites appears to be “organized,” and seem to test the state’s capability to counter cyberattacks.

“Tingin ko, umpisa pa lang ito sa mas malalim pang mga makikita nating problema. Ang kinatatakutan ko kasi ‘yung mga critical infrastructure natin tulad ng water distribution, electricity distribution, transmission lines. Kapag ito ang na-hack mas malaking problema sa atin.  So makikita natin na hindi talaga tayo ready,” Gatchalian said.

(I think this is just the start of a deeper problem. What I am afraid of is the hacking of critical infrastructure like water distribution, electricity distribution, and transmission lines. If these are hacked, it will be a much bigger problem. So we can see now that we are not ready.)

Even the Department of Information and Communications Technology admitted that the government needs to invest in its capabilities, he added.

“Itong mga ganitong cyberattacks, mas mabilis silang nag-e-evolve, kumpara sa [atin], gobyerno nag-e-evolve laban sa kanila. So importante na ‘yung DICT mabigyan ng budget,” he said.

(These cyberattacks evolve faster as compared to the government’s capacity to address it. So it is very important that DICT will be given funds.)

Gatchalian said that the DICT is responsible for the enforcement of counter-measures against hackers and the development or promotion of internet and communication in the country.

This, he said, needs financial support from the government.

“Ang hindi nabibigyan ng pansin ngayon ‘yung enforcement at dito natin kailangang suportahan sila including confidential funds,” he said.

(The government is not giving much attention to DICT’s enforcement functions and we need to support them on this aspect including the allocation of confidential funds.)

“Hindi coincidence itong nangyayari; meron talagang concerted efforts na gumawa ng cyberattacks sa ating gobyerno to test our capability, to test how we respond, to see what level of resources we can use in order to stop all these attacks. But importante ngayon dapat aminado tayo na cyberattacks are real… ‘wag na natin antayin pang mas malalim pa ang pangyayari, bago tayo umakto. We need to improve our capability,” he said.

(What’s happening is not a coincidence. There really is a concerted effort to attack the government to test our capability, to test how we respond, to see what level of resources we can use in order to stop all these attacks. But what is important right now is that we accept that cyberattacks are real. We should not wait for the problem to become worse before we act. We need to improve our capability.)

For 2024, Gatchalian said he will suggest to the Senate leadership to restore DICT’s P300-million confidential fund. 

Last week, the House realigned P1.23 billion worth of confidential funds from five agencies in the proposed 2024 budget, including P300 million for the DICT. The department said this would reduce the agency’s capability to address cybersecurity threats.

In terms of legislation, Gatchalian said he filed the proposed Critical Infrastructure Protection Law.

Under this bill, Gatchalian said all companies that are involved in critical public services should hire a cybersecurity officer, establish a cybersecurity plan, and funds for cybersecurity.

Recently, the websites of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, the Philippine Statistics Authority, the Department of Science and Technology, and the House of Representatives were hacked. — BM, GMA Integrated News

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