PH in the top list of cyber-attacks in ASEAN

Top line (l-r): Jay Ricky Villarante, Secuna President; Iannis Hanen, Secuna Chief Executive Officer; Paulo Paulo del Puerto, Secuna Chief Marketing Officer; AJ Dumanhug, Secuna Chief Information Security Officer Middle Line (l-r): Mark Gorriceta, FPh Trustee; Rob Locke Quad X Chief Technology Officer; Rui Fortuna Kumu VP of Information Security; Amor Maclang Amor Maclang, Fintech Philippines Association Executive Director and Digital Pilipinas Convener Bottom Line (l-r): Pio Lumungsod, PearlPay Chief technology Officer; Philly Tan, Co-founder; Trish Perez, host

The Philippines ranks high as the 4th ASEAN country targeted by ransomware attackers while remaining at a low 82nd when it comes to cybersecurity readiness. The country’s vulnerability to cyber threats was highlighted in the recent “Hacker-powered Cybersecurity Webinar” held recently by Secuna, the first and only Cybersecurity Testing Platform. Secuna CEO Iannis Hanen summarized the national level of cyber risk that the country faces, saying, “We are not in the worst position, but we can be better. There are countries that have stronger cybersecurity but the Philippines is actually learning and catching up quite fast.”

As an agile and effective solution, Secuna advocates the deployment of White Hat Hackers (WHHs), known as the “good hackers,” who can detect and report the IT and digital vulnerabilities that expose them to cyber attacks. Their skills are sought-after as Philippine companies have entered the cross-hairs of online hostiles who probe for and exploit weaknesses in their IT infrastructure. Yet there are still not enough cybersecurity professionals who can meet this urgent demand, with 2.046 million vacancies unfulfilled in Asia alone.

In the webinar, which Secuna organized with the FinTech Philippines Association (FPH), Secuna President Jay Ricky Villarante gave this solution to this situation that is affecting many businesses today: “With the rising cyberthreats in the Philippines, how can companies become cyber-secured in this ever-evolving digital era? With the help of the cybersecurity community and a proactive, continuous mindset toward protecting your data, a brighter future can be secured.”

AJ Dumanhug, Chief Information Security Officer of Secuna, explained how their WHH-centered strategy can neutralize present and future cyber threats, “Genius hackers strengthen companies' cybersecurity by rigorously and continuously testing their systems to protect them and their users. We incentivize those WHHs for finding valid security vulnerabilities in our clients by paying the first hacker who finds those problems.”

Secuna’s extensive network of WHHs provides their customers and partners strong protection, while in contrast, the regional shortage in cybersecurity professionals increases other companies’ exposure to cyber attacks which Dumanhug said “are inevitable. They are a 7 in likelihood and 8 in impact, which is almost the same as natural disasters.”

Paulo del Puerto, Chief Marketing Officer of Secuna, also remarked that a business leader’s openness of mind can help companies “be more accepting of these WHH reports to help them protect the data of their users.”

Amor Maclang, FPH Executive Director, emphasized that businesses must adopt a more proactive approach given the emergence of new cybersecurity risks. She gave this analogy, “You cannot say that you are protecting your homes if you leave your keys out there or leave your front doors open. The responsibility for cyberdefense and cybersecurity rests in all of us.”

Rob Locke, the Chief Technology Officer of Quad X which specializes in digital logistics and e-commerce payment processing, agreed that cyber protection, as well as the number of cybersecurity professionals, can be increased by “raising awareness for security practices through educational programs. A lot of the great developers out there don’t really understand the basic principle on how to design a secure application. In that sense, education specific to security would go a long way.”

Rui Fortuna, the VP of Information Security of social networking service Kumu, said that a strong cybersecurity structure can “not only protect the Filipinos but also the future WHHs. We really have to support such governance.”

Philly Tan, the Co-founder of DIY lab software company, echoed that if organizations “transition to a more proactive approach, it will be much safer for them. They’ll be prepared when issues arise and when WHHs start contributing to their platform.”

Pio Lumungsod, the Chief Technology Officer of digital banking solutions provider PearlPay, encouraged “collaboration. We should have a platform where the ideas are free-flowing and the private and government sector can share the best practices.”

Finally, Atty. Mark S. Gorriceta, FPH trustee and managing partner of law firm Gorriceta Africa Cauton & Saavedra, maintained that a forward-looking strategy is critical to the building of cyber defenses. He said, “Risks have to be identified before an attack occurs since the element of surprise is also part of an attacker's weaponry. Find the flaws in our defenses and fix them before they are used against us. We need this new cyber environment to make it safe for ourselves and our businesses.”