Senator Calls for Investigation into Cyber Attacks on Philippine Government Agencies

Alias Amanda and alias Jerome testify before the Senate Committee on Women, Children Family Relations and Gender Equality investigating allegations of human trafficking and sexual abuse by Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, leader of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KJOC), at the Senate on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. Quiboloy was a 'no show' and was instead represented by a lawyer. Sen. Ana Theresia 'Risa' Hontiveros, committee chairman, issued a subpoena to Quiboloy to attend the next hearing. PHOTOS BY MIKE ALQUINTO
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MANILA, Philippines: Senator Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros has called for an inquiry into the recent cyber attacks targeting Philippine government agencies, including those responsible for safeguarding the West Philippine Sea (WPS). The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has stated that the hackers are believed to be operating from China.

In a statement, Senator Hontiveros expressed her concern over the intrusion by alleged China-based hackers and criticized the government’s focus on discussing Charter change (Cha-cha) instead of strengthening national security laws. “While we waste our time discussing Charter change (Cha-cha), China has not stopped its intrusion into our country,” she said.

The DICT announced on February 3 that the hackers had breached the email systems and websites of several government agencies, including the Philippine Coast Guard, the Office of the Cabinet Secretary, the Department of Justice, the National Coast Watch System, the House of Representatives, and the DICT itself. Private domains, including the personal website of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., were also targeted.

Senator Hontiveros described the cyber attack as a major threat and criticized the focus on a “sham ‘People’s Initiative'” to amend the Constitution. She emphasized the need to address the cyber threat rather than wasting time on initiatives that bring trouble to Filipinos.

Citing a 2023 research report by Palo Alto research firm Unit 42, Senator Hontiveros highlighted the potential consequences of the cyber intrusions. The report revealed that a similar cyber attack on a Southeast Asian government aimed to install tools and malware for long-term surveillance. Senator Hontiveros expressed concern that Chinese hackers may have already installed malware in Philippine Coast Guard assets, posing a risk to resupply missions to Ayungin shoal, the security of Philippine Armed Forces personnel stationed on the BRP Sierra Madre, and the broader national interests in the West Philippine Sea.

Senator Hontiveros urged the government to prioritize addressing the cyber threat and the economic problems posed by China instead of focusing on changing the Constitution. She emphasized that China is the country’s bigger problem and called for action to protect Philippine interests.

In response to the allegations, the Chinese Embassy issued a statement denying any involvement in the cyber attacks and branding the accusations as “highly irresponsible.”

As the investigation unfolds, it is crucial for the Philippine government to take immediate action to strengthen cybersecurity measures and protect sensitive information from further breaches. The international community will be closely watching how the government responds to this incident and ensures the security of its agencies and national interests.

Source: The Manila Times

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