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EDITORIAL - After Comeleaks

Hacking garnered headlines last year. In February, cyber thieves took nearly a billion dollars from the account of the Bangladesh government from the US Federal Reserve in New York, with about $80 million finding its way to casinos and a commercial bank in Metro Manila. The thieves have not been caught.

In March, the database of the Commission on Elections was hacked, compromising sensitive information about 55 million voters. It has been described as the world’s worst hacking of a government-held personal database. The compromised data can be used among others for cyber thefts and to alter election results.

Official liability has been pinpointed by the body tasked to investigate the hacking, with Commission on Elections members to face criminal charges. Comelec officials are protesting the findings. As in the Bangladesh case, however, the hackers themselves have not yet been caught or even identified.

The year closed with Washington and Moscow feuding over reports that Russia hacked the US elections in November to favor Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The allegations are unlikely to stop Trump from assuming the presidency this month. But the case emphasizes the urgency of improving governments’ capability to fight cybercrime.

In the Philippines, the Cybercrime Prevention Act or Republic Act 10175 was passed in 2012 against various forms of cybercrimes including hacking, cyber fraud and identity theft, child pornography and human trafficking, security threats and online libel.

In 2014, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of certain provisions of RA 10175. The question is whether the government has the capability to fight the offenses covered by the law. The hacking in March last year – dubbed “Comeleaks” – exposed the weakness of the government in this battle.

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The law that set up the Department of Information and Communications Technology provides for the creation of a Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Center. After Comeleaks, setting up the center should be given priority. It should have sufficient funding and expertise to perform its work efficiently.

Following the Bangladesh electronic heist, the Philippines was described as a “black hole” in cyber thievery. The country must get rid of this reputation and develop the capability to stay one step ahead of cyber criminals. The nation cannot afford another Comeleaks.

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