The Department of Justice has urged all law enforcement agencies in the country to modernize its capabilities to fight crimes being committed in cyberspace which have become prevalent during the community quarantine arising from the coronavirus pandemic.
This came after authorities noted a significant spike in the commission of cyberspace-related crimes during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that the spike in cyber-related crimes is expected considering the non-face-to-face mode of communication during the pandemic.
“It is expected that during these pandemic times, where direct personal interactions are reduced, more crimes will be committed in cyberspace. it is therefore imperative that law enforcement agencies beef up their cybercrime units, upgrade their technologies, and enhance their investigative capabilities,” Guevarra said.
In a recent webinar series entitled, “Cybercrime in the Time of Corona: PH Cybercrime Trends During the COVID-19 Pandemic” hosted by the DOJ-Office of Cybercrime, it was reported by authorities that phishing has emerged as the top crime being committed in cyberspace during the pandemic.
National Bureau of Investigation NBI-Cyber Crimes Division Senior Agent Francis Señora, one of the guest speakers in the webinar, disclosed that there was a more than 200 percent increase in the phishing cases reported to the agency.
“Before the COVID-19 outbreak we only had around 30 cases but during the start, three weeks of the outbreak we had an additional 70 cases so that is a jump of more than 200 percent. 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.
Phishing is a cybercrime in which targets are contacted by email, telephone or text message by someone posing as a legitimate institution to lure individuals into providing sensitive data such as banking and credit card details, passwords and personally identifiable information.
The two other top cybercrimes are online selling scam and proliferation of misinformation that tends to cause panic among the public.
Phishing and online selling scam are punishable under Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, while the last one is penalized by R.A. No. 11649 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act
The DOJ-OCC had also reported a 264.63 percent increase in the number of reported online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) during the three-month quarantine period imposed by the government to contain the COVID-19 outbreak from March to May.
This prompted the DOJ to pressure the country’s internet service providers to comply with their duty under the law to install a program or software that will block access to or transmittal of any form of child pornography.
The DOJ said it has been 11 years since the passage of Republic Act 9755 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009 but the ISP companies continue to be remiss of their duties.
For his part, Lt. Col Weneco Fuentes, Assistant Chief, Cyber Security Unit of the Philippine National Police reported that online selling scam, phishing and SIM swap scam which involves criminals calling a telephone company and reporting that a particular postpaid SIM is faulty.
The criminals usually present a copy of the victim’s ID so they could get a replacement SIM card then use the SIM card to transfer the user’s funds linked to online bank accounts.
“The COVID-19 pandemic renders individuals and society extremely vulnerable in all respects. During this crisis, we all rely more than ever on computer systems, mobile devices and the internet to work, communicate, shop, share and receive information and otherwise mitigate the impact of social distancing,” Fuentes said.
To prevent being victimized by online criminals, Señora reminded people to conduct a legitimate check of whatever things they do on the internet.
On the other hand, among the measures that the PNP suggested include regular updating of software, enable system firewall, the use of different/strong passwords, the use of antivirus and anti-malware software, activate email’s anti-spam blocking feature, to encrypt local hard disk, encrypting of email and to always monitor your children online activities.