Huge business concern

HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes - The Philippine Star
Huge business concern
Surfshark, in its Global Data Breach statistics, said that a total of 124 million accounts have been breached in the Philippines, which is the second highest count in Southeast Asia with Indonesia leading with 144 million.
STAR / File

The incidences of data breach in the country have indeed reached alarming levels.

In October last year, cybersecurity firm Surfshark placed the Philippines fifth in the most number of data breaches in Asia since 2004 and 17th globally.

Surfshark, in its Global Data Breach statistics, said that a total of 124 million accounts have been breached in the Philippines, which is the second highest count in Southeast Asia with Indonesia leading with 144 million.

It revealed that while in Asia, 52 accounts are breached per 100 people on average, in the Philippines, this number goes up to 106 per 100 people meaning an average Filipino has been affected by data breaches at least once.

Global cyber security firm Kaspersky revealed that the Philippines ranked fourth place in the global ranking and remains the top country in Southeast Asia in terms of the most targeted by web threats in 2023, adding that the country has consistently been among the top 10 countries in the ranking since 2019.

Meanwhile, statista.com reported in April that incidents of data breaches in the Philippines reached around 0.14 million during the fourth quarter of 2023.

It noted that with the increased digitalization of most services (shopping and digital payment services for instance) comes the heightened risk of being a victim of cyberthreats such as phishing, online scams, data theft and mobile malware.

It added that such incidences were especially prominent among users lacking cyberhygiene or those unaware of how to protect their personal information when doing their online transactions.

But despite the increased risks of online threats in the Philippines, the report emphasized that the cybersecurity market remains modest compared to other countries. The Philippines ranked 12th out of 14 among countries in the Asia-Pacific region in terms of the size of its cybersecurity market.

And perpetrators have taken advantage of the country’s modest cybersecurity market and together with lack of cyberhygiene among internet users has resulted in various incidents of data breaches and cyberattacks, with phishing being the most prevalent which occurs when a malicious actor send an email that may seem to come from a legitimate source to steal sensitive information, the same report said.

In April last year, a massive data breach exposed the personal information of Filipinos, including data from the PNP, NBI, BIR, and the Special Action Force. Stolen data logs from government subdomains later appeared on the Russian black market.

Other incidents include the one affecting PhilHealth which was attacked by ransomware named Medusa and which resulted in at least 13 million members’ personal information being uploaded on the dark web, and that involving the Senate and House of Representatives, among others. Just last February, a cybersecurity researcher found a non-password-protected database covering 210,020 records belonging to an online platform used by senior high school students applying for government vouchers, making the data available to anyone with an internet connection.

Data which is secured illegally are now being sold in the dark web. While many of the high-level and massive breaches affected government institutions, local businesses now fear that the private sector is next, especially those with e-platforms.

What is our government doing about all these threats? Both our regulators and consumers should be on their toes on how to be a step ahead of these cyber criminals, especially since attempts at data breach happen on a daily basis.

A dying trait

No matter how you look at it, it will always appear inappropriate.

This is the situation Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chairman Eduardo Aliño has found himself in.

Subic Bay Free Grain Terminal (SBFGT) was founded by Aliño where he once owned 48.8 percent of its shares and serving as its longtime chairman and president.

Mega Subic Terminal Services Inc. (MSTSI) is a sister company of SBFGT. Both companies actively operate and do business with SBMA being SBMA locators. One of MSTSI’s subsidiaries, Mega Equipment International, is said to have a 25-year contract with SBMA.

While Aliño may have divested personally from the two companies even before he was appointed by President Marcos in January, records from the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that SBFGT is still 25 percent owned by Aliño Holdings Inc., another 23 percent belonging to his relatives and 35 percent owned by its sister company MSTSI.

Business observers fear that Aliño’s connection to SBGFT and MSTSI will give these two companies advantage over other locators in the freeport zone.

Even if Aliño inhibits himself in deliberations affecting his companies’ business interests or proposals with SBMA, there could be questions.

Delicadeza dictates otherwise. In other countries like in Japan or South Korea, just a hint of possible conflict of interest is enough for a government official to tender his resignation. The Japanese value delicadeza and honor very seriously to avoid shame and embarrassment.

As one blogger puts it, “calling for delicadeza does not focus on whether the public official might do something irregular or not; neither is his ability to stay objective being questioned. Delicadeza simply calls for a public official to voluntarily step away from an awkward situation or dissociate himself from a process that may be seen to be influenced in whatever way by his presence, position, or relationship.”

How can Aliño, as he promised, sell SBMA to the world, if there are investor concerns on possible conflict of interest?



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