Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) senatorial candidate Win Gatchalian is urging President Aquino to immediately sign into law the Congress-approved bill creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) amid reports that at least $80-million were illegally transferred by hackers from the Bangladesh Bank to several local accounts in RCBC Savings Bank.
“We need to pass the proposed law to prevent any potential hacking of our banking system which could lead to tremendous financial losses like what happened to Bangladesh ,” said Gatchalian, a majority member of the House Committee on Trade and Industry.
Gatchalian was referring to Senate Bill No. 2686 and House Bill No. 6198, both seeking to create the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), which will take over the “communications” function of the would-be Department of Transportation (DOT). The Senate already adopted the House bill as an amendment to its version last month.
Included among the agencies to be attached to the DICT is the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Center (CICC), whose powers and functions include the formulation of the national cybersecurity plan and the facilitation of international cooperation on intelligence regarding cybersecurity matters.
“The transfer of the CICC to the DICT shall ensure that it will get sufficient funding to execute its functions and responsibilities. The incident that has led to the illegal transfer of more than $80 million to Philippine accounts emphasizes the need to immediately enact the proposed measure establishing the DICT,” explained Gatchalian.
The CICC, which is currently chaired by the executive director of the Information and Communications Technology Office under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-ICTO), shall be headed by the DICT secretary under the proposed measure.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Director-General Ricardo Marquez had admitted that several local financial institutions have already fallen prey to computer hackers, including one of the country’s largest banks, which reported to the PNP that it lost a “substantial amount of deposits to hackers” months ago.
“Last November, for the very first time in their history, one of the largest banks of our country stepped forward, asked [for] our help, and for the first time, admitted that they have, indeed, registered some very significant losses to cybercriminals,” narrated Marquez.
Marquez did not disclose the name of the financial firm, apparently due to concerns over the effects of such report of hacking to the bank and over the possible reactions of its depositors. He, however, said the reported hacking was still being investigated, and that he could not disclose any detail.
Marquez said this big bank is not the only one on the list of commercial and financial institutions that have been victimized by cybercriminals. “We can only approximate with how much or how many millions, or billions, is the total loss of the banking industry just last year,” he said.
Gatchalian said the immediate operationalization of the DICT is necessary since it would take time to train its personnel in anti-cybercrime operations in the financial sector and help guard the economy against criminals who specialize in exploiting the bad side of the Internet.
“Let us be a step ahead of these criminals by immediately establishing the DICT as this will pave the way for the heightened campaign against cyber attacks on the local banking system,” said Gatchalian. (Monica Cantilero)