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‘PH cybersecurity a priority for the US’: Embassy

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MANILA, Philippines – “CYBERATTACKS transcend borders and boundaries. And the U.S. digital ecosystem is intertwined with that of the Philippines-because we are friends, partners, and allies, and our economies are connected in so many ways.”

Thus, this is how US Ambassador to the Philippines, MaryKay Carlson, noted at the opening to the 2-day Seminar Workshop dubbed as “Building Blocks: The U.S.-Philippine Partnership for a Prosperous and a Cybersecure Digital Economy”, held in Cebu City, June 6-7.

“Strengthening cybersecurity has been one of the Biden-Harris administration’s key priorities,” Carlson continued, and quoting President Biden, “Cybersecurity is essential to the basic functioning of our economy, the operation of our critical infrastructure, the strength of our democracy and democratic institutions, the privacy of our data and com-munications, and our national defense.”

Similarly, President Marcos has recognized that strengthening the Philippines’ digital infrastructure is vital to boosting the country’s economy to meet the challenges of the post- pandemic world.

The Philippine IT-BPO industry handles a huge chunk of the back office processing for US financial transactions, Press Attaché Kanishka Gangopadhyay noted. 

“Something like 90 percent of all financial transactions that go through Wall Street go through the Philippines… If you want a cyberattack on the United States, all you have to do is attack the Philippines,” Gangopadhyay said.

Ely Tingson, former data protection officer at the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and currently a senior vice president at US cybersecurity firm Kroll, shared key findings on cyberattacks in Asia Pacific. 

E-commerce and digitalization have made our lives easier in many ways. But the advancement of using digital economy has opened more doors for cyberattacks which are not just restricted to attacks against governments or institutions. Unfortunately, businesses-regard-less of their size-have been subjected to cyberattacks.

In 2022, 75% of businesses in the Philippines suffered a cyberattack, second only to Malaysia’s 76%, with Hong Kong setting the lowest benchmark at 43%, with ransomware, which locks data for a ransom, remaining the top operational threat. 

93% of US businesses operating in the region experienced a cyberattack as well, which may potentially affect operations in the US homeland as well. A country with a more developed cybersecurity infrastructure and national policy may prove to be the more attractive business partner. 

Thus, Tingson noted that there should be lacking or there should be a need for more reportorial requirements for companies operating in the Philippines that have experienced a cyberattack, beyond the current National Privacy Commission regime, to cover more forms and types of cyberattacks. 

Meanwhile, the participants in the said seminar visited Concentrix, an American company that is the Philippines’ largest private employer, with more than 120,000 Filipino employees. Like so many companies, the daily work of Concentrix depends upon the strength and stability of our cyber networks.| – Joenald Medina Rayos

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