Road to Resiliency

aseeccsxsssssssssssss Allan Salim Cabanlong,  Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Enabling Technologies (OASCET)

Life events, constant stress and everyday challenges can all eat away at our resilience. There are times we declared, “I give up” or “I can’t take it anymore”. Such is the journey of Philippine cybersecurity.

The 21st century saw a Philippines plagued with cyber-attacks both from state and non-state actors. Government website defacements, notorious hacking of critical infrastructure and the largest government data breach back in 2016 - the COMELEC data breach. And how did the nation respond? Put out fires. Try to get back up. And hope and pray nothing like that ever happens again.

But it happens again, and again, and again.

Until in May 2017, barely a year after its creation, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Enabling Technologies (OASCET), led by ASEAN Engr Allan Salim Cabanlong, with a handful of people and on a shoestring budget, launched the first National CyberSecurity Plan. And there, right there, the road to cyber resiliency for the Philippines has begun.

It was also the year the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Center (CICC) was operationalized. The CICC, which was created upon the approval of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, is an attached agency of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), and is chaired by the DICT Secretary. ASec Allan Cabanlong was concurrently designated by the Secretary to create, organize and operationalize the CICC. In July 2017, CICC was approved by the Department of Budget Management (DBM).

Four months after the launch and publication of the Plan, the DICT released three memorandum circulars for its implementation... sending a clear message that the government is serious about protecting the nation's cyberspace.

It would have been great if the story ended right there with "And they lived happily ever after". Little did the CyberSecurity Bureau and the CICC know that it was just the start of the long, winding, broken, uneven road to resiliency. To say it was difficult is an understatement. A handful of people performing concurrent roles for Cybersecurity and Cybercrime, a laughable budget, a tiny office, with no cybesecurity equipment, courageously embraced its duty to protect the Filipino nation and its people from the threats and dangers lurking in cyberspace. With staff taking on multiple tasks, helping victims of cybercrimes with free open source tools, coming out with policies for the protection of every Filipino... the benefits of which are now being felt by the nation, with only a year after the launch of the National CyberSecurity Plan.

Today, the Philippines is no longer a sitting duck to cyber-attacks... but a nation on the road to resiliency in cyberspace. Though better than it was, the nation still has bigger mountains to face, massive roadblocks to conquer as it traverses the long and winding road. But as ASec Cabanlong's favorite hero, The Captain, says ---

"Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: Stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world… "No, you move."