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PHL telco group says fraudsters evade ‘robust’ filters

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PHILSTAR FILE PHOTO

THE Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators (PCTO) said the country’s telecommunications companies should urgently implement stringent security measures against scam and spam messages, citing a surge in off-network scam messages that are evading telco networks.

“This new wave of scam messages is worrisome as fraudsters have resorted to methods that do not pass through telco networks, thus they are able to evade our already robust filters,” PCTO President and Globe General Counsel Froilan M. Castelo said in a statement on Tuesday.

For the first quarter, Globe reported blocking a total of 362.77 million scam/spam messages, a decrease from 1.1 billion in the same period last year.

Additionally, Globe noted a decline in bank-related spam and scam messages to a range of 1.04 million to 4.07 million during January to March.

Despite the reduction in scam and spam messages, the PCTO said there is an increasing threat of off-network scam/spam messages, which are malicious messages sent to mobile users outside of their telco provider.

Mr. Castelo  said there is a pressing need for enhanced collaboration among telco players to address this problem.

Fraudsters exploit internet-based messaging platforms and other rich communication services for these activities, he noted.

“Industry players and key stakeholders must work closely together to combat this trend. Let’s focus on finding ways to defeat our common enemy: scammers,” Mr. Castelo said.

Separately, PLDT Inc. and its wireless unit Smart Communications, Inc. said that they are intensifying their measures against scammers.

From January to May, Smart said it has blacklisted over 615,788 mobile numbers associated with illicit and fraudulent activities such as spamming and SMS phishing scams.

“We actively collaborate with the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center and the NTC (National Telecommunications Commission), our peers in the telecom industry, and other allies from the private and public sectors, to have a comprehensive response to the menace of SMShing and phishing scammers,”  PLDT and Smart Chief Information Security Officer Jojo G. Gendrano said in a statement.

CYBERSECURITY AS BOARDROOM PRIORITYMeanwhile, Chris Painter, president of the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise Foundation, said Philippine businesses must prioritize cybersecurity to enhance resilience against the rising incidence of attacks like data breaches.

“The number one thing businesses have to do is make it a priority at the boardroom level. That is something that is not just the job of the chief invasion security officer and that means they need to invest a resource in it,” he said in an interview.

Mr. Painter said entities should develop protocols in collaboration with authorities to ensure they respond effectively to attacks.

“Hardening the targets is one thing, but that resilience and also doing the analysis afterward and cooperating with others to see what’s going on and with the government, I think, is critically important.”

He added that countries like the Philippines need to collaborate with partners and establish connections with other countries to address these issues.

He cited geopolitical issues and investments as reasons for the Philippines being targeted.

Recently, GCash reportedly experienced an alleged breach of data from its know-your-customer process, which is mandatory for identifying clients opening an account. However, the e-wallet service clarified that its initial findings showed no indications of a data breach in their system and assured that customer funds and accounts were not impacted.

Digital Pinoys national campaigner Ronald B. Gustilo said the organization welcomes GCash’s assurance that no accounts were compromised and encourages cooperation with the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center’s investigation.

“We also encourage Gcash to continuously take measures to protect their database and their whole system so that their customers will have an assurance that their funds and the personal information entrusted to the e-wallet provider is safe,” he said.

Other similar cases confirmed by the National Privacy Commission involved Toyota Motors Philippines, Robinsons Malls, Maxicare Healthcare, and Jollibee Foods Corp.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Ashley Erika O. Jose and Aubrey Rose A. Inosante

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