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The new world of cyber

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista is facing potential  charges for “ being negligent in ensuring the privacy of its database” violating the 2012  Data Privacy Act. According to the National Privacy Commission, Chair Bautista is criminally liable for not taking sufficient action to prevent the data breach – another term for hacking. On the other hand, Bautista has said that the persons that should be held criminally liable are the hackers and not the head of the government agency that has been hacked.

This is one time the Senate should hold a hearing “ in aid of legislation.” The main issue is whether our legislation is really still appropriate or are we trying to combat 21st crimes with 20th century laws.

According to a computer hacker currently facing charges, he has hacked the website of at least twenty government agencies. Are we now going to hold the heads of all these agencies criminally liable? If the database of the Bureau of Internal Revenue is hacked, does this mean that the BIR Commissioner will be criminally liable?  Other examples I can cite are the database s of the National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. In this 21st century, the question is which office can really determine whether sufficient action has been taken to prevent computer hacking.

In the United States, the seventeen American intelligence agencies have submitted a report that Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to help Trump get elected. The primary Russian tool was the hacking of American websites, like the Democratic Party, and selectively leaking emails and communications that was damaging to the Hillary Clinton campaign.

The most surprising is that the news about the Russian hacking and the Wikileaks  had been going on  for several months. In spite of that, the seventeen American intelligence agencies were not able to take any steps to prevent the hacking from happening.

Cybercrime

Cyber is a prefix meaning “computer”, “computer network”, or “virtual reality. It also means “ expressing visions of the future” like cyber fashion. We are now in the Cyber Age.

Whoever invented the ship also invented the shipwreck; and, whoever invented the plane also invented the plane crush. Whoever invented the computer also invented computer hacking. Digital and cyber technology has given us the age of networks or connectivity.

The result is that cybercrime has now become a bigger risk because of the sheer number of people and devices that are connected. In fact, some reports already indicate that cybercrime has now surpassed illegal drug trafficking as a criminal money maker. Stealing somebody’s identity has gone beyond science fiction or movie drama to become an hourly event all over the world.

Companies are trying to fight back against cybercrime. They have instituted extra firewalls, double and triple authentications al la RSA, anti-virus programs and paper shredders to SecureID keyfobs and cards. But hackers are still prevailing.

The first computer hackers were considered as thrill seekers and there were movies made glorifying these hackers. Then people like Assange of Wikileaks  were considered as activists. But today, we are now aware that these computer hackers are criminals.

Since cybercrime is relatively a new phenomenon, cybercriminal are able to outdated laws to evade detection and even prosecution. In some countries, bank robbery is considered a more heinous crime than stealing the credit card ID of even several persons and using them for illicit purposes. Police forces are more inclined to act more swiftly on bank robberies than on cybercrime. Perhaps, the biggest reason is that solving cybercrimes  requires expertise that our police forces do not possess.

The recent case about the Bangladesh Bank and RCBC shows that cybercrime can be much more expensive than ordinary bank robberies. Again, in this case the focus was on the money laundering rather than the criminals who hacked both the Bangladesh and the American financial system.

This is an illustration that cybercriminals are now striking across international boundaries; and, are using developing countries where the laws against cybercrime are weak or where the police forces have not developed the expertise to combat cyber crime.

These are the more serious issues that must be addressed by our government. If not addressed soon, the Philippines might yet become an international center for cyber crime.

Cyberwarfare

Russia’s deliberate campaign, through computer hacking, to help Donald Trump get elected in the recent American elections has brought a new dimension to warfare – cyberwarfare. This has been defined as the deliberate attempts or actions by one nation to penetrate another nation’s computers or networks for the purpose of causing disruptions or damages. This can also refer to similar actions by terrorist groups, ideological extremist groups or individuals and by international crime groups.

Cyber espionage is another common practice of many countries. Edward Snowden revealed that the United States had conducted massive spying on many countries including on German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The American National Security Agency has been accused of recording cell phone conversations of government leaders in the Bahamas, Philippines, Mexico and Afghanistan. China has been accused of causing the data breach in US Office of Personnel Management.

In 2007, the internet security company McAfee stated, in their annual report, that approximately 120 countries have been developing ways to use the Internet as a weapon and to target financial markets, government computer systems and utilities.

The world is not going to stop flying in planes simply because of the possibility of plane crashes; or, a car because of potential car crushes. The Cyber Age is upon us and we need to adjust and adapt. But like the plane and the car improved the quality, we must look for the same opportunities in the new cyberworld.

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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