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A safer digital Philippines: Cybersecurity initiatives shine in October

Cybersecurity Awareness Month takes center stage every October in the Philippines. To align with this, Digital Pilipinas collaborated with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and its Cybersecurity Bureau to orchestrate a Cybersecurity Forum on October 23, 2023, held at the DICT Building in Quezon City.

The primary objective of this forum was to underscore the importance of cybersecurity as a nationwide concern and to champion a comprehensive, whole-of-nation, and whole-of-business approach in the ongoing battle against ever-evolving cyber threats.

Speaking to CoinGeek in an exclusive interview, Amor Maclang, convenor of Digital Pilipinas, emphasized the need for the private sector to play a more active role in cybersecurity. She mentioned that sectors like banking, finance, and lending have established best practices related to cybersecurity.

“What we want are other industries like the supply chain, health, smart cities, property technology to also follow suit,” she stated.

This underscores the importance of different sectors collaborating with the DICT to create cybersecurity guidelines.

As digitalization continues to expand in the Philippines, Amor pointed out that ensuring safe and secure transactions for consumers is critical. The rise in digitalization has also led to an increase in vulnerabilities.

“The challenge there is if we do not protect the consumers, what will happen is they will lose trust in the institutions, and we simply cannot afford to have that,” said Maclang.

Protecting consumer trust is paramount in a digitalized world, where sophisticated cyberattacks are rising, particularly affecting small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with limited access to cybersecurity tools.

She highlighted three key layers to enhance cybersecurity in the Philippines. First, she stressed the importance of regulatory technology, particularly in protecting and verifying data ownership. She used India’s digital locker authority as an example where individuals have control over their data and can choose to share it with financial institutions, promoting transparency and security.

The second layer focuses on supporting SMEs by providing them with access to credit and cybersecurity tools. This is crucial to protect these vulnerable businesses from cyber threats.

Lastly, Maclang emphasized the significance of cybersecurity education, especially for the younger generation, to instill good cybersecurity hygiene from an early age. She also stressed the need for increased budget allocation to organizations like the DICT to combat cyber threats effectively.

Maclang noted that other industries are vulnerable to cyber threats, not just banking. Recognizing the broader scope of cybersecurity challenges and addressing them collectively are essential for a digitally safer Philippines.

When asked about the potential of blockchain in enhancing cybersecurity, Maclang expressed her belief in the technology, stating, “I believe that if transactions are immutable and are on chain, there will be fewer opportunities and fewer vulnerabilities on the part of cyber hackers.”

Blockchain’s transparent and secure nature can play a crucial role in strengthening cybersecurity measures.

Manish Bhai, founder and CEO of UNO Digital Bank, gave a keynote speech at the forum, addressing the role of the private sector in improving digital lending and credit inclusion in the Philippines.

Bhai provided an overview of the digital lending landscape in the Philippines, highlighting that only four percent of adult Filipinos have loans borrowed from a bank, with the majority turning to informal lenders and friends and family. The challenge lies in simplifying the process of opening a bank account and making access to loans easier to provide Filipinos with a safe and reliable alternative.

Manish identified several roadblocks to credit inclusion, such as the lack of bank accounts, income documents, and credit history. Overcoming these roadblocks requires addressing the five items mentioned in his talk, including the implementation of Single ID, the establishment of an effective credit bureau, and income verification through Open Finance initiatives.

The Cybersecurity Forum, organized by Digital Pilipinas and DICT, is a collective effort in a move to advance, improve, and strengthen the nation’s digital security and overall cybersecurity landscape. The program also serves as a precursor to the inaugural Philippine TrustTech and Cybersecurity Festival, scheduled during the upcoming Digital Pilipinas Festival Year 2, taking place from November 20-24 at the SMX Aura in BGC, Taguig.

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