Saturday, June 22, 2024

Congress website back online as DICT probes ‘person of interest’

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said on Monday, Oct. 16, that the website of the House of Representatives (HOR) is back online even as the agency is investigating a “person of interest” who may have perpetuated the hacking incident.

The HOR website was defaced over the weekend and was put offline to prevent further unauthorized access as its tech team coordinated with relevant government agencies such as the DICT’s Philippine National Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-PH).

DICT spokesperson Renato Paraiso told reporters in a Viber message that the agency has started the case build-up in preparation for possible prosecution against the suspect.

“We are pursuing leads on possible local threat actors on the case of the HOR [website] because of the style and language used in the defacement of the website,” said Paraiso, who is also assistant secretary for legal affairs of the DICT.

For its part, the HOR said it has taken added measures to enhance the security of its site as it conducts an investigation to identify the hackers.

Meanwhile, lawmakers at the HOR have proposed giving additional funding to the DICT to beef up its cybersecurity efforts.

Elizaldy Co, chairman of the House appropriations committee, said he “will work with our colleagues in the Senate to look for more sources of funds for the Department of Information and Communication Technology.”

“We recognize the dire need for the DICT for resources to fight cybercrime and ransomware attacks. For the continuing ransomware attacks, we convey to the Department of Budget and Management the urgent need for additional funds for the DICT and for government agencies being attacked and vulnerable to cyberattacks. Perhaps the additional resources can come from the Unprogrammed Funds of the 2023 national budget,” Co said.

He added: “Maybe some of the vulnerable agencies’ savings can be authorized for augmentation spending on IT security and ransomware countermeasures.”

Bohol representative Alexie Tutor also urged to the DICT to consult with the Department of Finance on funding because the World Bank recently approved a $600-million loan to the Philippines, specifically on digital and information technology.

“It may be necessary to bring in experts from Interpol, our Asean neighbors, and maybe from the United States and Japan, in addition to those among the country’s 200 certified cybersecurity specialists,” she said.

“The DOJ and DICT would have to make the decision on that. It would be their judgment call and prerogative. Our country does have international bilateral and multilateral anti-crime agreements and arrangements that could be activated,” Tutor also said.

Tutor observed that the hacking of the HOR website may be handiwork of the same set of people who hacked PhilHealth. “But the level of the hacking skills used would be closer to those who hacked the DOST and the PNP,” she said.

“It would only be a matter of time before the perpetrators of these IT system intrusions are traced and identified. As to arrest and prosecution, the House will have to confer with the DOJ on that. Troubling, though, is the revelation of the DICT that they have been investigating about 3,000 reports,” Tutor noted.

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