PLDT Group said it invested close to P2 billion this year to run its advanced cybersecurity operations center to fight online sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
“This is where we predict, prevent, detect and respond to all types of cyber threats including those related to OSAEC. This is where we identify phishing and scamming activities,” said Angel Redoble, first vice president and chief information security officer of PLDT, Smart and ePLDT.
“Now, this includes notifying our enterprise subscribers of attacks and high-risk activities inside their network,” Redolbe said.
The multibillion-peso investment enabled the companies to block 3,020 domains that host illicit materials featuring children as mandated by the National Telecommunications Commission.
“We expanded our sources on these illegal sites, so we can block as many domains as possible. We’ve been doing open-source threat intelligence gathering, purchasing available commercial threat intelligence and receiving information from our government through law enforcement agencies on which sites to block,” said Francisco Ashley Acedillo, assistant vice president of Smart and chief strategy officer of the Cybersecurity Operations Group.
He said PLDT and Smart were digging deeper and bringing the fight against OSAEC to the content level. The challenge is to block access to a specific material without restricting access to the legitimate website where it was uploaded, he said.
“It’s a combination of technologies. We bring our customers to our child protection platform where we reference the content they’re trying to access against our database. When they’re trying to open any offensive content, they’re brought to a landing page telling them that the material violates the country’s anti-child porn laws,” Redoble said.
Crucial to the platform is PLDT and Smart’s membership with the UK-based Internet Watch Foundation—a leading international non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating online child abuse content. Once completed, this will enable both companies to gain access to an extensive database of web pages hosting these objectionable materials.
“IWF will regularly update us on child abuse related materials being posted on legitimate websites. Then we’ll integrate that into our platform. We’re looking to complete our application for membership with the IWF in March. Once we have done this, we will migrate all our customers on board our child protection platform,” Redoble said.
Amid these engagements, both firms said they needed to do more in curtailing abuse against children over the internet. They said they also needed the help of lawmakers in resolving conflicting laws on child pornography and data privacy that hamper efforts to curb OSAEC.
“This fight requires a ‘whole-of-nation’ approach. This can’t be done by the telcos and law enforcement agencies alone. We need to involve agencies concerned with children’s welfare to make sure that we break the cycle and victims don’t end up back to the same oppressive industry they came from,” Redoble said.
PLDT and Smart actively participated in discussions to strengthen the country’s Cybercrime Prevention Law. They invited lawmakers and regulators into their cybersecurity operations center to gain a deeper understanding on how they fight online threats.