Cyber-related crimes on the rise during pandemic — DOJ

Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra has warned against an increase in cyber-related crimes, particularly phishing, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. 

“It is expected that during these pandemic times, where direct personal interactions are reduced, more crimes will be committed in cyberspace,” Guevarra said. 

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra

During the recent webinar series entitled "Cybercrime in the Time of Corona: PH Cybercrime Trends During the COVID-19 Pandemic" hosted by the Office of Cybercrime of the Department of Justice (DOJ), he said: “It is therefore imperative that law enforcement agencies beef up their cybercrime units, upgrade their technologies, and enhance their investigative capabilities.” 

Phishing is a cybercrime in which targeted victims are contacted by email, telephone, or text message by a person who poses as an officer or employee of a legitimate institution for personal information or details on banking and credit cards. 

Guevarra said the two other top cyber crimes are online selling scams and proliferation of misinformation that tends to cause panic among the public. 

Phishing and online selling scam are punishable under Republic Act No. 10175, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, while the proliferation of misinformation, particularly on COVID-19, is penalized under RA 11649, the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. 

National Bureau of InvestigationCyber Crimes Division (NBI-CCD) Senior Agent Francis Señora said there was a more than 200 percent increase in phishing cases reported to the agency. 

“Before the COVID-19 outbreak, we only had around 30 cases, but in three weeks thereafter, we had an additional 70 cases. So that is a jump of more than 200 per cent. Why? Because there is a necessity to use computers to do our communication, to do our job. 

Hence, this is one of the opportunities for attack,” Señora said. 

To ward off online criminals, Señora reminded the public to conduct a thorough check of what they do on the Internet. 

The DOJ’s cybercrime office had also reported a 264 percent increase in the number of reported online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) during the three-month quarantine period imposed by the government last March.

The spike in OSEC cases prompted the DOJ to press the country’s Internet service providers (ISPs) to comply with their legally mandated duty to install a program or software that will block access to or transmittal of any form of child pornography.