By Edd K. Usman
The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has awarded software giant Microsoft with a contract worth P70 million to build the agency?s new ICT system.
In a media briefing on Friday, May 20, at the Manila Hotel, BOC commissioner Alberto D. Lina said the new system will enable the BOC to intensify its anti-corruption and anti-smuggling initiatives.
The escalation of cyber-criminal activities being waged against government agencies has also, apparently, prompted the BOC to totally overhaul — or re-engineer — its ICT infrastructure.
The deal will require building a new foundation, and not just tweaking parts of the BOC’s old ICT systems, according to BOC deputy commissioner for management information system and technology (MIST) group Dennis B. Reyes.
Reyes also urged other government agencies to collaborate under the iGovPhil Project of the Department of Science and Technology to determine what is lacking in their ICT infrastructure, so they can move on to develop their own technology architecture.
He said the agencies should ?include cyber-security as a foundation and not an afterthought,? adding that the sharing of threat intelligence among government and private companies, as well as the online community, could help thwart attacks. “We can only defend against those that we know,” he stressed.
Lina, meanwhile, said government agencies should lose no time in adopting ICT solutions as the new norm has changed.
“We?ve seen with the recent attacks on websites of government agencies that cyber-security is no longer an option,” Lina declared. “The new norm is to be attacked and until you understand that technology is your only real solution against it, the cyber-criminals will succeed.”
The BOC chief said a new era of national change is dawning, emphasizing the need for all government organizations to put in place modern solutions that can serve the public better. “We hope that through our initiative to innovate, we inspire all other government agencies to embrace the future of governance through technology,” Lina said.
Lina said the BOC-Microsoft partnership is focused on achieving three core factors critical in attaining complete and seamless delivery of services by the agency: productivity in customs administration, security of data, and transparency.
“We are committed to eradicating corruption within our agency. By adopting world-class technology, we will improve our efficiency in public service while strengthening the integrity and security of the data and information of the public,” Lina said.
Microsoft Philippines director for public sector Ferdie Saputil said the deal can be likened to the reconstruction of a house. Instead of just fixing the parts of the house, he said the partnership paved the way for the establishment of a new foundation that could function well in the next three years.
“This is to make sure that when you go to the office, when you log in to the network, it’s secure. When you bring your own device and connects with the network, it’s secure,” he said, adding that even if BOC’s 4,000-strong personnel grows to 6,000, the new system will be able to the handle the expansion easily.
Saputil said Microsoft started laying the foundation of the new ICT infrastructure in January this year, with the deadline set in the first week of June.
He said Microsoft will train BOC staff who will manage the system to make for a smooth transition. The company will also continue provide assistance in the next 12 months for any needed tweaks. “So, that’s what we are working on and, so far, it’s on track,” said Saputil.
Lina said they are putting in place all the protection necessary, stressing that the ICT infrastructure being established is part of the agency’s anti-corruption drive, including smuggling. “If your data is corrupt, your people becomes corrupt,” said Lina.
Reyes said the new ICT infrastructure will take three years to build. “You have to realize the agency is very serious about anti-piracy.”
He said the agency is being ?targeted? because of the amount of money coming in to the BOC. With the new infrastructure, he said they will be able to know and identify intruders the moment they plug in to the network.
Reyes warned that BOC will prosecute cyber-criminals and not just stop them in their tracks, revealing that they have linked up with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). The ICT system being built also have anti-terrorism mechanism, he said.
“This is not a science project. For enterprises, we need a trusted ICT provider and not just fly-by-night providers,” he said.
He cited the BOC have been hit in recently with cyber threats such as DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service), identify theft (attackers pretending to be from BOC); and full-blown criminal activity (through malware directly connected to criminal groups).
“Right now we have identified an excess of 200,000 attempts,” said Reyes, adding Microsoft’s crime unit is also providing information.