Manila steps up precautions against N. Korean hacking attacks

Philippine soldiers and police preparing for deployment as military helicopters flew overhead during a send-off ceremony in Manila on Sunday for the security forces for this week's Asean Summit. President Rodrigo Duterte will preside over the Asean S
Philippine soldiers and police preparing for deployment as military helicopters flew overhead during a send-off ceremony in Manila on Sunday for the security forces for this week's Asean Summit. President Rodrigo Duterte will preside over the Asean Summit meetings from Friday to next Tuesday. Twenty-one world leaders are expected to be at the summit.PHOTO: REUTERS

Local media reports on move to protect govt Internet infrastructure ahead of Asean meet

MANILA • The Philippines is taking extra precautions ahead of this week's Asean Summit and related meetings to protect key government Internet infrastructure against attacks by North Korean hackers, local media reports said.

At the same time, the entire Philippine police force will be on full alert to provide security.

President Rodrigo Duterte will preside over the Asean Summit meetings from Friday to next Tuesday. Twenty-one world leaders are expected to attend the meeting.

An official with the Department of Information and Communications Technology said the department was validating reports that key government Internet infrastructure might have been compromised by North Korean hackers.

"We are conducting an investigation," Assistant Secretary Allan Cabanlong said. He said the Philippines was upgrading its cyber-security systems and protocols.

A key priority was to ensure the safety of "critical" infrastructure, Mr Cabanlong said in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Government agencies linked to the Philippine Open Internet Exchange are currently required to have individual firewalls.

LOOKING OUT FOR BREAK-INS

Once it's in the website that is under attack, the website shuts off for a specific period, allowing the attacker to send malware to the website in order to control its system.

MR ALLAN CABANLONG, assistant secretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology, on denial-of-service attacks.

But Mr Cabanlong acknowledged that the security measures would need to be upgraded as threats become more sophisticated.

"It's like an arms race," he said. "If the attack is not sophisticated, then we are protected."

There had been reports of North Korean hackers launching cyber attacks against the website of the Department of Science and Technology (Dost) and its Advanced Science and Technology Institute (Asti).

Mr Cabanlong said the Dost and Asti will jointly investigate whether the so-called distributed denial-of-service attacks that shut down websites have entered its cyber system.

"It's like a teargas or smoke grenade. Once it's in the website that is under attack, the website shuts off for a specific period, allowing the attacker to send malware to the website in order to control its system," he explained.

News website Quartz reported that "some North Korean users were conducting research, or possibly even network reconnaissance, on a number of foreign laboratories and research centres", including India's Space Research Organisation and the Philippines' Dost.

The head of the Philippine National Police, director-general Ronald de la Rosa, told reporters that the 160,000-strong police force was fully prepared against any threat during the summit meetings.

"We are prepared. We have not monitored any present and imminent threat towards the hosting of Asean (meetings) but we are not relaxing," he said of security measures being planned over the past year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2017, with the headline 'Manila steps up precautions against N. Korean hacking attacks'. Print Edition | Subscribe