“Cybercrime is exploding” and is threatening the digital economy—an ominous warning of Mr. Paolo Pascetta, program manager of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency during the latest hybrid forum last week organized by think tank Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi).
This was in partnership with US Embassy in the Philippines wherein I had the great pleasure of being the moderator to interact in sage discussions with top cyber security and geopolitical thought leaders offering their insights on fighting the global rise in cyber attacks.
Mr. Pascetta said various projections have estimated that cybercrime is damaging the global economy at a cost of US$ 4 to 6 trillion!
On the other hand, he cited that digital transformation as part of another industrial revolution will create an estimated 100 trillion of additional value to the world economy by 2025.
He illustrated how critical infrastructure should be cyber resilient thru a systemic re-architecture approach to achieving integrated security.
Department of Information and Communications Undersecretary Paul Joseph V. Mercado in his opening remarks stated he believes that as decision-makers, enablers, and leaders in the ICT industry, the noble mission is to provide a safe and secure cyberspace for digital citizens so they can harness the full potential of ICT.
Undersecretary Mercado emphasized that as more and more people rely on ICT, raising awareness on how to mitigate cybersecurity risks by educating citizens on the proper and safe use of online platforms and data privacy is a priority.
The former Director of the US National Security Agency Threat Operations Center, Mr. Dan Ennis, sees the citizenry will begin to challenge both the public and private spheres to respond to cyber attacks.
Ennis said the biggest strategy that can be done from his perspective is to “defeat cybercrime by sector, by entity, by company, by government agency, and by wherever you sit.”
“Set a set of priorities that you will focus on and then communicate those priorities again and again and again,” Mr. Ennis said.
Dr. Sherwin Ona, associate professor of Political Science, De La Salle University–Manila, emphasized the Philippines should take a more aggressive position when it comes to cybersecurity which he termed as “cyber defense posture.”
Furthermore, Dr. Ona proposed that “the non-traditional security aspect of cyber space” should be considered in building our cyber defense posture and its connection to human security.
“It (cyberspace) is an empowering domain where people can connect and be more productive. It is also a venue where we can secure basic human rights like freedom of expressions, freedom from fear, freedom from hunger.”
Dr. Francis Domingo, assistant professor of International Studies of the De La Salle University, pointed out the Asia Pacific and Indo-Pacific regions are the most active in terms of cyber operations in the world with “skirmishes” involving espionage, sabotage, subversionism and other operations based on existing political rivalries between North Korea, South Korea; the United States, China; Pakistan, and India, among others.
Reprising his argument during a US State Department forum, he said that “if we’re facing, let’s be blunt, Chinese cyber operations, the logical strategy is to leverage our alliance because we already have it.”
He posits that though treaties covering cyber is still in the gray, we can focus on capacity building, on exercises, and on diplomacy.
Army Col. Walter Icaro, MNSA, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Cyber Group, said that their immediate concern is strengthening the cyber organization to be more responsive in securing the nation’s cyber domain and protecting the critical information infrastructures.
He shared that the defense department has approved the acquisition and the development of the General Headquarters cyberspace operations system project under the AFP modernization program and the activation of the AFP Cyber Group and cyber units in the major services.
Microsoft Philippines National Technology Officer, Mr. Dale Pascual, pointed out that it is critical that our government adopt globally consistent laws including substantive and procedural provisions on offenses and investigation.
Microsoft’s digital crimes unit and partners in law enforcement are working to disrupt cybercrime and support victim recovery. They continuously share expertise on cybercrime legislation and advocate for public-private partnerships that accelerate cross-border cooperation.
Former Commissioner and Chairman of the National Privacy Commission, Mr. Raymund Liboro, said that cyber weapons have redefined what is possible in war and warfare and should be ready to meet this challenge.
“If our cities lose electricity, energy, water and communications, especially the internet, it’s like being thrown back into the dark ages. Worse, citizens would lose trust in their government. A crisis of trust would be the biggest threat to our national security,” Liboro said.
In closing, the institute’s president, Prof. Victor Andres “Dindo” Manhit, emphasized that in the age of multipolarity and increased uncertainties, there is the need for collaboration to enhance defensive and offensive cyber capacities, increase state interoperability, and ensure collective security”
“Only by creating a strong and credible cyber defense posture will the Philippines and the Indo-Pacific be able to achieve a secure and trustworthy digital community,” Prof. Manhit said.
Ensuring the safety of cyber space is a shared responsibility that I believe should have the same level of urgency as sustaining the environment.
We now live in a highly digitized ecosystem where online connectivity is indispensable. Building an all of society cyber defense force is another dimension of the new normal that we must do together.