MANILA – Cyber thieves in the Philippines may not have the sophistication of their international counterparts to stage billion-peso heists, but they now have the capability to steal millions of pesos from automated teller machines (ATM) stationed all over the country.
What is alarming, according to Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, is the fact that the Philippine National Police’s Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) has only 110 officers who serve as special investigators for all internet-related crimes.
The growing menace of cybercrime, Recto said, should move Malacañang to immediately sign into law the Congress-approved bill creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).
The DICT Bill, which Recto principally authored in the Senate, mandates the creation of a Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Center.
The DICT will also be tasked to formulate the National Cybersecurity Plan and form the National Computer Emergency Response Team, which, Recto said, would serve as “our IT Special Action Forces.”
Recto said a Cybercrime Report prepared by the Department of Justice for the years 2014-2015 showed that the Philippines ranked 39 among countries globally on internet threat activities.
The top growing trends in the threat landscape, according to the report, include advanced targeted attacks, mobile threats, malware attacks and data breaches.
The PNP-ACG, on the other hand, recorded an increase of 113 percent in cybercrime statistics from 288 incidents in 2013 to 614 incidents in 2014.
Topping the cybercrime list is internet fraud with 137 incidents, followed by libel thru social media (104); voyeurism (68) harassment/threat (63); identity theft (53); Electronic Commerce Act (47); Access Device Regulation Act (23), ATM Fraud (8) and Credit Card Fraud (8).
While the PNP data on ATM Fraud seems negligible, Recto said ATM hackers got away with almost Php400 million from bank depositors in 2012 and 2013.
According to the senator, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported 2,872 cases of ATM fraud during that period. The modus operandi in these cases involved the use of illegal PIN (personal identification number)-capturing devices on automated teller machines.
“Big banks are not the only ones at risk. Every Juan de Cruz who has ATM account is a potential victim of these cybercriminals,” Recto said.
“If we cannot protect these poor ATM holders, who will?” he added.
At present, the PNP-ACG has been tasked to investigate all cybercrimes and other crimes utilizing Information and Communications Technology (ICT). It also maintains Cyber-Patrollig and Terror Response Team for the monitoring of social media exploitation.
But due to limited manpower, there are only 110 police officers who serve as special investigators in PNP-ACG. These officers are detailed in different units of PNP-ACG such as Child Protection, Economic Crimes, Financial Intelligence and Organized Crimes.
“The internet telecommunications network is an information superhighway. How do we expect 110 police officers to ensure the security and safety of Filipinos using this superhighway?” Recto said.