To defend and fight against the increasing incidence of hacking of institutions in the Philippines, a Global Center of Excellence (GCOE) in Data Privacy and Cybersecurity has emerged at the Saint Louis University (SLU) in Baguio City.
The initiative was a result of a partnership between the National Association of Data Protection Officers of the Philippines (NADPOP) and the Philippine Computer Emergency Response Team (PH-CERT).
“It is about time that we focus our attention in upgrading the skills and competencies of our citizens in the fields of Data Privacy and Cybersecurity,” said Fr. Gilbert Sales, president of SLU.
“As one of the pillars of education in the region, we are at the forefront of protecting and upholding the privacy rights of individuals, and to work together with society to guard against external and internal cyber threat actors.”
Dr. Cecilia Mercado, SLU data protection officer and head of the SLU Data Protection Office, added that “hackers are relentless in gaining access to critical information so we have to be more vigilant in defending against their digital onslaught.
“Awareness and education on data privacy and cybersecurity will become a human firewall that will minimize and mitigate the impact of unauthorized access of sensitive information of organizations,” Mercado said.
Sam Jacoba, NADPOP founding president and PH-CERT vice-president, said that the country needs at least 180,000 cybersecurity practitioners and an equal number in the field of data privacy to protect the country’s critical information infrastructure (CII).
“Working together with universities is one of the most strategic and exponential ways for the Philippines to raise a cyber army that will form the vanguard in the fight against cyber criminals,” Jacoba stressed.
“We are grateful that SLU has accepted this challenge and we will now work together to create world-class data privacy, cybersecurity and GRC (Governance, Risk and Compliance) professionals and practitioners through training, certification and Communities of Practice mentorship and volunteerism.”
SLU, NADPOP, and PH-CERT signed a memorandum of agreement on the first day of the 6th Annual YearEnder conference – StraPlanConPH: Getting Ready for Data Privacy and Cybersecurity in 2024 at the Fr. Francis Gevers Hall inside the SLU Campus.
The three organizations agreed that it takes a whole-of-nation approach to protect the Philippines, its institutions, organizations, and citizens from deadly elements working in cyberspace, including state-sponsored threat actors.
Recent hacking of key government institutions such as PhilHealth and the Philippine Statistics Authority has put the spotlight on cybersecurity and data privacy.
According to the Global Data Breach statistics released by cybersecurity firm Surfshark last October, the Philippines ranked fifth in most number of data breaches in Asia since 2004 with 124 million accounts having been breached. This is the second highest count in Southeast Asia following Indonesia with 144 million breached accounts.
Kaspersky, another online security company, reported in the middle of this year that the Philippines ranked fifth among countries in Southeast Asia (SEA) with the most phishing attacks in 2022 with 4,559,288 phishing incidents.
These four other Asean member countries had more phishing incidences: Vietnam (17,847,857), Malaysia (8,267,013), Thailand (6,283,745) and Indonesia (4,931,367).
PH-CERT signed a memorandum of agreement with seven other Asean countries and Japan last October in Tokyo to form the Asean-Japan Cybersecurity Community Alliance (AJCCA) and fight against cyber threats in the Asia-Pacific Region.
PH-CERT and NADPOP will work with SLU to bring the resources and expertise from AJCCA to further enhance the cyber defense ecosystem of the Philippines, specifically in the regional areas around SLU.