Phishing is top PH cybercrime during pandemic – authorities

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Online selling scams and the proliferation of misinformation that cause panic among the public are the other cybercrimes often committed as Filipinos grapple with the COVID-19 outbreak, says the National Bureau of Investigation NBI-Cyber Crimes Division

MANILA, Philippines – Authorities recently reported that phishing is the top cybercrime being committed in the country during the pandemic, followed by online selling scams and the proliferation of misinformation that cause panic among the public.

In a recent webinar titled “Cybercrime in the Time of Corona: PH Cybercrime Trends During the COVID-19 Pandemic”, National Bureau of Investigation NBI-Cyber Crimes Division (NBI-CCD) Senior Agent Francis Señora said that reports of phishing cases to the agency has increased by more than 200 percent.

The webinar was hosted by the Department of Justice– Office of Cybercrime (DOJ-OCC).

Señora said the NBI-CCD only had around 30 phishing cases before the COVID-19 outbreak but 3 weeks into the pandemic, they had an additional 70 cases. He explained that people being in their computers during the quarantine period has become an “opportunity for attack”.

(READ: [ANALYSIS] How cybercriminals are causing digital pandemic)

Señora reminded the public to check and validate their activities online.

Phishing targets are reached by email, telephone or text message by entities posing as legitimate institution. Victims are lured into giving out sensitive data such as their bank and credit card details and passwords.

Phishing and online selling scam are punishable under RA 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. Online misinformation is penalized by RA 11649 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

Earlier, the DOJ– OCC reported a nearly 270 percent increase in the number of reported online sexual exploitation of children during the 3-month quarantine period implemented by the national government to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus.

(READ: Reports of sexual abuse of children triple during lockdown)

The DOJ urged the country’s internet service providers  (ISPs) to comply with the mandatory installation of programs or software that would block access to or transmittal of any form of child pornography under RA 9755 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that the spike in cyber-related crimes is expected considering that people now rely on online communication during the pandemic.

“It is expected that during [the pandemic], 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. 

Lt Col Weneco Fuentes, assistant chief of the Cyber Security Unit of the Philippine National Police, said that “the COVID-19 pandemic renders individuals and society extremely vulnerable in all respects.”

The PNP suggests the following safety measures: regular updating of software, enabling their system firewall, using  different or strong passwords, using  antivirus and anti-malware software, activate one’s email anti-spam blocking feature,  encrypt local hard disks and emails, and always monitor online activities of children. –

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