The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) gained the commitment of the biggest social media platforms – Google, YouTube, TikTok, and Meta – in its intensified cybersecurity efforts as online scams and other cybercrimes tripled from January to June 2023.
As DICT nears the home stretch of Cybersecurity Month 2023, Sec. Ivan John E. Uy highlighted what is perhaps the biggest potential collective vulnerability for Filipinos online, and the aspect of life online that they need to be most security-conscious about, social media.
Cybersecurity Month 2023 was organized by DICT in partnership with Digital Pilipinas, now the largest private sector led movement for creating an innovation and technology ecosystem in the country that is actively engaged in a global digital economy through its domestic and international trajectories.
As reported by the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) under the Office of the President, the total number of online scams – such as those that happen across social media – went up to nearly triple what it was in the same period of 2022, in the first half of 2023, reaching 4,446 reported cases. So, the question then arises, how exactly are all these new attacks happening? And if it is through the use of various online and social media platforms, how can the situation be rectified?
In a move to affirm the national government’s commitment to lead the country to digital transformation through cybersecurity, the DICT hosted the Social Media Commitment Event, to which social media companies, government agency officials, and private sector representatives declared their commitment to support the DICT push on intensified cybersecurity.
Social media comprises one of the key pillars of digital transformation, especially given the fact that more than 70% of Filipinos are active on various social media platforms, directly contributing to the potential pool of victims of online scams.
“Cybersecurity has become a deep concern for everyone, and the reason for this is the rapid move from brick-and-mortar to digital landscapes. The scale, speed, and level of penetration of digitalization in our everyday lives is unprecedented,” said Sec. Uy. He added that the economic presence of ASEAN through e-commerce presents a very attractive pie for cybercriminals and cyber threat actors.
Sec. Uy continued, “It becomes vital for us to all be concerned and to address that concern by coming together, working together, collaborating, and sharing what resources we have from different sectors in order to help protect our consumers and citizens in this area.”
DICT Undersecretary for Connectivity, Cybersecurity, and Upskilling, Jeffrey Ian C. Dy highlighted the campaign, “Sama-sama para sa Cyberseguridad” which, he said, encapsulates the essence of unity and shared responsibility in protecting our digital realm, as we work collectively towards a digitally safe Philippines.
“Today, as we sign this commitment,” Dy continued, “the DICT and its esteemed social media partners are coming together to share knowledge, insights, and technology in our pursuit of cybersecurity.”
The program culminated in one big commitment signing event which, according to DICT Sec. Uy, is quite unprecedented. The first part of the signing featured all the top social media giants including ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook, and Google, representing both Google and YouTube. The second part involved representatives from the private sector, government sector officials, and key representatives from foreign embassies.
The gathering also featured an insightful fireside chat Usec. Jeff Dy and Digital Pilipinas Convenor Amor Maclang. During the session, Usec. Dy stated that the DICT’s top three cybersecurity priorities – digital access, digital literacy, and security – each go hand in hand. “While the impact and reach of connectivity and e-governance grows, so does the need for greater digital literacy,” Uy explained. “And as more and more people become connected, there comes a need for even greater security.”
“When it comes to cybersecurity, our work in the financial sector has taught us that fintech, specifically, has the most vulnerabilities come into play. However, the financial services sector also has the most organized guidelines for cybersecurity,” said Maclang. “These guidelines serve as a model for other sectors, such as smart communities and health, which also need clear and concise cybersecurity guidelines.”
John Garrity, Chief of Party, USAID/Philippines Better Access and Connectivity (BEACON) Activity, said in a statement, “Social media is key to promoting cybersecurity awareness and education to individuals. It has a unique function and allows us to translate technical cybersecurity terms and language into layman’s language, making basic cyber hygiene easy to understand.”
Garrity also opened up on the subject of USAID’s efforts to support the government’s initiatives, particularly to address the lack of cybersecurity professionals in the country. “At USAID, we are working with the Philippine government, particularly the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), to provide cybersecurity training to organizations and individuals,” he said. “We are here to help DICT and other government agencies execute on their mission to train more Filipinos on cybersecurity hygiene and training, whatever DICT needs.”
Gonz Gonzales, President of Cloud Security Alliance, agreed, saying: “Social media provides this platform for engagement, especially with the younger generation, and it reaches a wide audience. So with that, it’s a very good channel or medium to reach out to more people and then engage with them and then teach them how to do better. Cyber security and data privacy practices.”
Patrick Signo, Country Manager at Materia Logic, also believes in the vital role that social media can play. “Social media is a great way to educate people about cybersecurity. It’s a hot topic with a lot of available information, but many people forget that cybersecurity plays an important role in both personal and professional life,” he said. “On any social media platform, it’s important to educate users about the implications of cybersecurity, even the negative ones. Overall, social media is poised to be the next big thing for people to learn about technology.”
Sam Jacoba, Founding President, NADPOP and PH Cert VP, gave a slightly more nuanced take. “We need to consider three factors when talking about how social media can influence cybersecurity awareness: consumers, influencers or content creators, and platforms themselves,” he said. “If we consume content on social media, it is one of the best ways to reach consumers, specifically on Facebook and TikTok. However, we need to customize the messaging. We need to configure cybersecurity messaging with what consumers need at the right time and on the right platform.”
Stephanie Tower, Business Development Lead at nChain, who moderated the discussion said that it is the responsibility of parents to talk about and educate their children on cybersecurity.
“In order for us to bring innovation in whatever aspect, be it digitalization, e-governance or cyber security, we really have to educate from the top level down to the grassroots,” she adds.
The DICT and Digital Pilipinas intend for the commitment event to represent a huge step forward in the ongoing efforts to fortify the country’s digital defenses and enhance the nation’s overall cybersecurity posture. Bringing together key stakeholders from the government, private sector, and the top social media platforms is representative of the whole-of-nation and whole-of-business approach that is necessary to resolve the most pressing cybersecurity concerns. This event is a precursor to the upcoming Digital Pilipinas Festival x Philippine FinTech Festival happening on November 20-24, 2023, at the SMX Aura Convention Center, Taguig City, and in various co-located venues and innovation hubs across the country. Secure your slots for the event by registering through the official link: https://digitalpilipinas.ph.
About Digital Pilipinas
Digital Pilipinas is now the largest private sector-led movement for creating an innovation and technology ecosystem in the country that is actively engaged in a global digital economy through its domestic and international trajectories.
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