Philippine military eases enlistment rules for ‘cyberwarriors’

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is looking to expand its main cybersecurity unit to strengthen the defense of their networks from almost daily cyberattacks.

Frances Mangosing

Frances Mangosing

Philippine Daily Inquirer


Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Romeo Brawner Jr. PHOTO: REUTERS/ PIHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER

October 20, 2023

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is looking to expand its main cybersecurity unit to strengthen the defense of their networks from almost daily cyberattacks.

AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said part of the effort to attract the “cyberwarriors” they need is to relax the recruitment rules. “There is that general realization that this new breed of warriors do not need to be muscled and strong, but intelligent and skillful in the cyber domain,” he said in a forum hosted by Foreign Correspondents of the Philippines on Thursday.

Brawner said they have been experiencing attempts to attack the entire networks of the AFP “almost everyday,” with some of it coming from abroad. But none has been successful so far.

READ: AFP chief deems dark web leak outdated, no threat to PH security

Ongoing investigation

An investigation is currently underway to identify those behind the recent cyberattacks on government websites, including the House of Representatives, Senate of the Philippines, Philippine Health Insurance Corp., Philippine Statistics Authority and Department of Science and Technology.

A US cybersecurity company reported in 2021 that the Philippine Navy and the AFP were among those being persistently targeted by Chinese state-sponsored hackers.

READ: PSG chief among top posts in AFP reshuffle

‘AFP Cyber Command’

At present, a small unit called AFP Cyber Group is in charge of protecting the military’s networks at the main headquarters level while each service branch has their own cyber units, according to Brawner. The AFP Cyber Command they plan to create will secure the entire network of the AFP, he said.

“The Cyber Command that we are envisioning will not be as big as an area command, because an area command has territory that it covers. [It] will not have that physical territory, but it will have the whole archipelago … because it will try to defend the cyber networks of the [AFP],” he said.

Brawner did not say how many cyberdefense personnel they were planning to recruit.

Cybersecurity was a prominent feature during “Balikatan”—the largest Philippine-US military exercises—staged earlier this year wherein a cyberdefense exercise simulated defending and attacking networks while exploiting each other’s operating procedures.

In addition, the military plans to stop allowing telecommunication companies to build cell towers in military camps as part of a new policy, Brawner said.

A China-backed telecom was allowed to install communications equipment on military bases during the Duterte administration, triggering national security concerns.

The government is currently facing a shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals. Some cybersecurity experts working in the government are leaving due to low pay to move to private firms where there are higher salaries, an official from the Department of Information and Communications Technology said in a television interview earlier this week.

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