DICT tackles engagement with watchdog

Rainier Allan Ronda - The Philippine Star
DICT tackles engagement with watchdog

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will discuss with the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Committee (CICC) its engagement with cybercrime watchdog ScamWatch Philippines in view of the revelation of a hacker that one of its convenors, Manila Bulletin technology editor Art Samaniego, was behind the hacking of government websites.

Jeffrey Ian Dy, ICT undersecretary for infostructure management, cybersecurity and upskilling, said the DICT had been alerted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) regarding the operations and its imminent arrest of the hackers tagged as responsible for the data breach on the systems of key government agencies.

“We’ll discuss that with the CICC,” Dy told The STAR in an interview on the sidelines of the Cybersecurity Forum, spearheaded by think tank Stratbase-Albert del Rosario Institute, at the Peninsula Manila in Makati City yesterday.

The CICC has conducted a series of public awareness campaigns with ScamWatch Philippines since last year, where they have worked closely with Samaniego, presenting him as an expert on cybercrime and scams along with Jocel de Guzman, a co-convenor of Samaniego in the cybercrime watchdog group.

“The NBI is building its case,” Dy said.

“I would suggest that Art also prepare for his defense. And I would advise him to trust the process, because if he is really innocent, I’m sure his name will be cleared,” he added.

The DICT official, however, noted that the suspected hacker arrested by the NBI had named Samaniego directly and in front of news cameras as the one who ordered the hack on government and private organizations’ websites.

Dy said that he was able to talk to De Guzman last Saturday, when he was informed about Samaniego already having taken a leave of absence from the group.

“But the one that is implicated is the person, not the organization,” Dy stressed.

“We were informed by the NBI several weeks earlier. We knew about the information. I think the NBI has a case,” Dy said.

ICT Undersecretary and CICC executive director Alexander Ramos has declined to comment on the hackers’ allegation of Samaniego’s masterminding of the hacking operations.

“We have no details on that, so we cannot comment,” Ramos told The STAR in a Viber chat interview last Saturday.

“ScamWatch itself is a public educational campaign,” he added.

The CICC chief also clarified that Samaniego had never been tapped to do ethical hacking on government websites to assess their cybersecurity weaknesses.

“VAPT (vulnerability assessment and penetration testing) is done internally or by contracting third-party registered companies,” Ramos said.

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