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DICT urged to speed up cybercrime unit

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto yesterday prodded the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to speed up formation of its cybercrime unit following the hacking of the database of the Commission on Elections (Comelec). 

Recto, principal sponsor of the law that created the DICT last May, said the agency must move quickly to set up the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Center to put up a massive firewall to protect the country from increasing incidents of cyber attacks and cyber crime. 

“The DICT is empowered to go after hackers, the private citizens whose data have been compromised by the ‘Comeleaks’ can also run after the hackers by filing damage suits if applicable,” Recto said in a telephone interview. 

“As I’ve always been saying and consistent in telling the DICT: we live in an era when terrorists don’t have to blast bank doors to do mayhem; but simply unleash a virus that could shred or suck out financial data. An enemy with a missile is as dangerous as one with malware,” he added. 

The Comelec’s database was hacked in March 2016. Sensitive information from some 55 million voters were exposed and are feared to be in the hands of criminal syndicates. 

Among the sensitive information the hackers accessed were verified name, date of birth, gender, civil status, post of registration, passport information, taxpayer identification number, e-mail address, mailing address, spouse’s name, names of the voter’s mother and father, the voter’s addresses in the Philippines and abroad, profession, sector, height and weight, identifying marks, biometrics description, and voting history. 

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The National Privacy Commission (NPC), which is under the DICT, recommended the filing of charges against Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista for the breach and violation of the Data Privacy Act of 2012.

But Recto defended Bautista from the NPC’s recommendation, saying the Comelec chief could be liable administratively at most.

The DICT was created through Republic Act 10844 last May 23 and was given an initial budget of P3 billion this year and is currently headed by Secretary Rodolfo Salalima. 

The DICT is also mandated to formulate the National Cybersecurity Plan and form the National Computer Emergency Response Team that Recto dubbed as “Cyber Special Action Force.”

“We should hire really good and dedicated anti-hackers. An army of them will form part of our country’s defensive forces,” he said.

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