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Navy confirms increased cyberattacks in West Philippine Sea

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star
Navy confirms increased cyberattacks in West Philippine Sea
Philippine Navy spokesman for the WPS Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad was also firm in pointing out that while it is China that has the largest presence in the area, there is no proof yet to show or conclude that it is the Chinese that are behind these cyberattacks because claiming so would need to be backed by forensic evidence or a report.
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MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday confirmed an increase in cyberattacks on the country’s military ships in the past three to four years in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), but assured the public that such efforts to disrupt communications and jam signals in Philippine territorial waters are not a cause for alarm.

Philippine Navy spokesman for the WPS Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad was also firm in pointing out that while it is China that has the largest presence in the area, there is no proof yet to show or conclude that it is the Chinese that are behind these cyberattacks because claiming so would need to be backed by forensic evidence or a report.

Trinidad said that cyberattacks have increased recently, although it has been going on for quite some time, but there are protocols and safeguards in place to ensure continued and effective communication in the area.

He explained that the cyberattacks come in the form of interference on electronic equipment not only on Philippine Navy ships, but also on land, where mobile phone signals are being jammed.

“I have discussed this with the commander of Naval Forces West this morning and it has been going on for the past three or four years, maybe even longer,” the Navy official told reporters yesterday.

“They have noted an increase in cyber interference, electronic interference, jammings and stuff like that not only for equipment of the ship, but also for land-based communication equipment, and this usually happens or are noted during preparation stages for RORE (rotation and resupply) missions. So yes, there has been observed activities to interfere with our internal equipment,” he added.

Trinidad noted that such cyberattacks have minimal effect since the interference has not reached a stage that it would affect the navigation.

“These are more on communications on land, cell phones, but on the overall impact on the operation, they do not really cause a significant impact,” he said.

The Navy official clarified, though, that signal jamming is not on the Automatic Identification System (AIS) of Philippine Navy ships, but on communications in the vessels and on land.

“So there are times that interference or the ability to communicate is affected in a way that it is not a normal shortcoming in our communication. But we know that there is a deliberate attempt to prevent them from communicating, ship to ship or on land, not only for our communication aboard the ship or on land, but also (in mobile) phones,” he said.

He added that these cyberattacks do not delay operations because “the moment that the missions are undertaken even without communicating, all the operating units are already ready to execute, so there is already minimal use and we observe the proper protocols when it comes to communications.”

Trinidad assured the public that there are no confidential or sensitive information to intercept since all there is to hear are normal communications traffic.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said China also puts up barriers around Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal whenever Philippine vessels are around, and remove the barriers when the vessels are gone.

“Their main effort is to make sure we cannot enter the lagoon,” PCG-WPS spokesman Commodore Jay Tarriela told “Storycon” yesterday on Cignal TV’s One News.

Tarriela said vessels of the PCG and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources have been ordered to go on rotational deployment in the WPS, to ensure that Filipino fishermen can pursue their livelihood in peace.

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AFP

WEST PHILIPPINE SEA

WPS

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