Guarding our cyber skies
Philippine Air Force commanding general Lt. Gen. Alen Paredes and PLDT chairman, president and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan.

Guarding our cyber skies

MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Atty. Mike Toledo (The Philippine Star) - September 8, 2020 - 12:00am

I’m not being an alarmist. Far from it. But it behooves me to put fear in our hearts knowing that our strategic industries — defense infrastructure, economy and financial system, our very way of life — can be obliterated, not by a nuclear holocaust or an armed invasion but merely by the flick of a switch, the touch of a button, or fingers on a computer.

A plethora of experts adduced that the next war will be fought in cyberspace.

I gathered that strategic industries, government offices, and vital installations are attacked several times a day.

We need to be ready.

(From left) Lt. Gen. Paredes and MVP with the author, MVP Group of Companies public affairs managing director; and PLDT SVP and ePLDT president and CEO Juan Victor Fernandez.

And our Philippine Air Force (PAF) has been tasked to provide that readiness, that defense.

Who would have thought that the Air Force would be tasked with cyber security considering its primary mission of defending our skies from external threats.

In other jurisdictions, like that of the United States, the air force has been deemed as one of, if not the most capable branch of the armed service to handle national cyber security.

With its systems, infrastructure, and human resource continuously patrolling our skies and the airwaves for any sign of external threat, it was but natural that the Philippine Air Force patrols our cyber skies as well.

This incipient and daunting task, however, needed a build-up in capabilities, considering the vast expanse that cyberspace is and the great speed at which technology traveled to constantly map the four corners of this digital universe.

And, so, reliance must be made on the support and assistance of the private sector, which is all too willing to lend a hand to the upkeep and development of our own armed forces.

The PLDT Group, the country’s leading digital and telecommunications provider, recently signed a letter of conformity on its partnership with the Philippine Air Force to support and assist the latter with its cyber security efforts.

A signing ceremony was held at the Agunod Hall, Villamor Air Base between Lt. Gen. Alen T. Paredes, commanding general of the Philippine Air Force; and Manuel V. Pangilinan or MVP, chairman and CEO of PLDT Inc.

Also present for the signing, aside from myself, were PLDT SVP and Enterprise head and ePLDT president and CEO Jovy Hernandez, PLDT FVP and group chief information security officer Angel Redoble, and Smart AVP for cybersecurity operations Ace Acedillo.

Under the agreement, the PLDT group will assist this major branch in the armed forces in terms of cybersecurity trainings and information communication infrastructures.

Smart Communications and ePLDT will enhance cyber operations of the PAF through the upgrade of digital infrastructure and systems, as well as train the “cyber warriors” within the service.

Training will be a combination of lectures and hands-on sessions covering cyber management, operations and administration, and will be handled by some of the best cyber security specialists this country has to offer.

The partnership also includes access to ePLDT’s Security Operations Center providing the air force with a customized dashboard to monitor internal operations as well as a cyber intelligence platform to protect and alert against rising threat levels.

This was all part of the commitment that MVP made as a member of the PAF Multi-Sector Governance Council (PAF-MSGC) of which I also have the honor to be actively involved in.

The PAF-MSGC is an external advisory group tasked to provide expert advice on the concerns of Philippine Air Force Flight Plan 2028 related to governance and policy, resource generation, strategic communication, and strategy review.

The PAF Flight Plan 2028 is a 14-year strategic plan that provides interventions, which are both characterized as positive reinforcements and values added, highlighting the commitment of the PAF to pursue genuine reforms founded on good governance and performance excellence.

The PAF-MSGC is chaired by my good friend, former Defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., and counts as its members, former Labor secretary Prof. Nieves Confesor, former senator Bam Aquino, Budget Undersecretary Tina Rose Canda, Commission on Higher Education chairperson Popoy de Vera, former Immigration commissioner lawyer Fred Mison, Antique Rep. Loren Legarda and FINEX trustee Ronald Goseco.

In his speech during the signing ceremony for the cyber security partnership, MVP said that “we are one with the government in ensuring that our country is safe from cyber threats” and that “we look forward to more engagements with the Philippine Air Force and the Armed Forces of the Philippines on this front.”

Nobel laureate Thomas Schelling succinctly put it, “We should be very careful about confusing the unfamiliar with the improbable.”

We may be unfamiliar with the upheavals a cyber nightmare will bring, but it can happen. It is happening.

It brings great comfort, like a warm embrace on a cold night, to know that the PAF and PLDT, in another display of public and private partnership, are our sentinels.

It makes us sleep better at night.

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