Senate logs ‘spike’ in cyberattacks

MANILA — The Senate recorded a “spike” in cyberattacks on its system over the weekend, after hackers defaced the House of Representatives website, an official said on Tuesday. 

“As soon as we learned of the HRep website hacking, our team went on alert and continuous monitoring,” said Senate Secretary Renato Bantug Jr. 

“May perimeter and application firewall naman ang Senate but our tech team also made adjustments. Per our IT, we recorded a spike in attacks last Sunday,” he added. 

Bantug said the Senate website’s cyber traffic shot up on Sunday noon, which an anti-hacking software considered as “malicious.” 

Attempts to penetrate the website were made by “bots” or software applications programmed to do certain tasks, said Senate Director Mario Antonio Sulit of the Electronic Data Processing Management Information System. 

He said the IP addresses of those who tried to enter the Senate website were from Germany, US, Vietnam, and the Philippines. 

“Bots can actually bring down a website, which brings the attack bringing millions of requests. So, that’s the time that you cannot access the website,” Sulit said. 

“But fortunately before us, na-mitigate naman lahat… Walang nag-succeed,” Bantug added. 

Sulit said the Senate fended off hackers’ previous attempts to breach its website, the latest of which happened during an investigation of the multi-billion peso Pharmally controversy. 

“During the Pharmally hearings, yun, almost everyday attacks nun… Siguro they want to disrupt the operation of the Senate website,” he said. 

Senators opt to use their personal email addresses instead of their official Senate email address due to the attacks, Bantug said.

“The only possible data mine that they can [access] would be our email server. But none of our senators at the present moment use our email servers. So, it will not be compromised at all at this stage,” Bantug said.

Asked what might be the hackers’ objective in trying to breach the Senate website, Sulit said: “Bragging rights.”

Philippine government agencies, including the PhilHealth Insurance Corp., the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Statistics Authority and the House of Representatives, have reported cyberattacks and breaches in recent weeks.

Sen. Win Gatchalian said he was worried that hackers could penetrate more sensitive sectors like financial institutions, water distribution, and transmission lines. 

“Pag ito ang na-hack, mas malaki ang problema sa atin. So, makikita natin na hindi talaga tayo ready… Etong ganitong cyber attacks, mas mabilis silang nag-i-evolve, kumpara tayo, gobyerno,” Gatchalian said. 

Some lawmakers have backed additional funds for the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

Gatchalian also eyed pushing for a law that would require every office or company to have a cybersecurity expert.

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