Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has directed the country’s main revenue-generating agencies – the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) – to further fortify their respective systems against hacking and other cyber threats as he expressed concern over the increasing number of scams perpetrated online against financial consumers.
“Please make sure that your cybersecurity measures are up to date and effective against all sorts of threats,” Dominguez told the two agencies during a recent Department of Finance (DOF) Executive Committee (Execom) meeting.
Dominguez recalled that the recent hacking incident involving BDO Unibank and the Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) and the complaints of several teachers about losing money from their accounts in the Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) as proof of the rise in cyber attacks as more and more Filipinos resort to online transactions to avoid face-to-face interactions amid the pandemic.
LandBank has already issued a statement saying that its systems remain secure against any form of hacking, and that its initial investigation showed the teachers were the victims of phishing.
Phishing is a scheme in which hackers pretend to be legitimate banking representatives either by sending fake emails or text messages via bogus bank websites to obtain confidential bank details from clients and use these to pilfer or make unauthorized money transfers from the victims’ accounts.
Finance Undersecretary Antonette Tionko, who oversees both the BOC and BIR as head of the DOF’s Revenue Operations Group (ROG), assured Dominguez that cybersecurity is covered by the ongoing digitalization and modernization programs of the two agencies.
“Please make sure that that’s up to date because apparently, it’s getting more and more prevalent,” Dominguez told Tionko.
Long before the pandemic broke out in March 2020, Dominguez already directed DOF and its attached agencies to vigorously pursue their respective digitalization programs to help boost revenue collections and further improve the delivery of services to the public.
In 2020, Dominguez ordered government financial institutions (GFIs) and other agencies under the DOF to work together in coming up with a cost-effective defense strategy that will shield their respective systems from potential cybersecurity threats along with other possible risks and data breaches in the digital landscape.
He instructed GFIs, state-run pension fund and insurance agencies, and the revenue and treasury agencies to enter into their respective memoranda of agreement (MOAs) on a shared cyber defense strategy.
This involves institutions such as the LandBank, United Coconut Planters’ Bank (UCPB) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP); Insurance Commission (IC), Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and Social Security System (SSS); and the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr), BIR, and BOC.