On Friday, September 9, the Digital Infrastructure group of the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) initiated the joint efforts of local telecommunication players (telcos) to uphold their commitment to consumer protection amid growing fraud concerns. During the 2022 UnionBank Innovation Festival held at the newly opened UnionBank Innovation Campus in San Pedro, Laguna, executives of UnionBank of the Philippines, Globe Group, Smart Communications, and Converge ICT Solutions signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to strengthen cybersecurity and combat financial crimes through Fraud Prevention and Data Sharing Measures.
This marks the first course of action of the PSAC Digital Infrastructure sector, headed by UnionBank Chief Technology and Operations Officer and Chief Transformation Officer Henry Aguda, shortly after it was formed last month. The MOU is the answer to the Advisory Opinion 2021-06 issued by the National Privacy Commission (NPC) allowing for the sharing of relevant data for fraud investigations. It was a proactive response addressing the rising number of phishing and cybercrime cases.
Under the recently signed MOU, all telcos have committed to creating a framework to share relevant data to profile fraudsters abusing technology and victimizing Filipinos without requiring a lengthy court order to extract information about fraudsters.
Alongside leveraging the expertise of the PSAC network, the MOU will also add teeth to the private sector’s anti-fraud initiative by providing for the taking down of malicious sites and phishing links. The firms have also agreed to create and convene their respective Quick Response Teams (QRT) composed of their own cybersecurity specialists to prevent, monitor, report, and resolve cybersecurity incidents.
At the signing, UnionBank CISO Joey Rufo invited Globe Group CISO Anton Bonifacio, Smart SVP and Head for Enterprise Joseph Ian G. Gendrano, and Converge CISO Benjamin B. Azada to sign the MOU. The other signatories included UnionBank Anti-Financial Crimes Governance Head and PSAC Digital Infrastructure Secretariat Atty. Ernesto C. Herrera III, Smart CISO Angel Redoble, Converge Chief Technology Officer Paulo Martin Santos, and the respective Data Protection Officers of each firm Smart’s Leah Jimenez and Converge’s Laurice Tuason.
Globe Group President and CEO Ernest Cu, Smart and PLDT President and CEO Alfredo S. Panlilio, and Converge CEO and Co-Founder Dennis Anthony Uy are members of the PSAC Digital Infrastructure group. Working with UnionBank CTO Aguda who heads the group, and witnessed the signing of the MOU, they provided invaluable industry insight to put these original digitization initiatives into action.
“Digital banking has brought significant growth for UnionBank and even better user experience for our customers during the pandemic. The benefit of being able to do your banking anytime, anywhere helped Filipinos make it through the crisis. Through this growth, we have seen opportunistic cyber criminals take advantage of citizens who are still in the midst of transitioning from branch banking to online banking, and yet already being taken advantage of scrupulous individuals,” Aguda said
UnionBank will never take this sitting down.
“Together with our telecommunications partners: Globe, Smart and Converge, we want the Digital Filipino to be protected from cyber crimes by ensuring that cybercriminals cannot hide behind the anonymity of prepaid numbers and the internet. We will hold them accountable. We want Filipinos to trust the banking system and their communications systems. We want the citizens to be 100% Digital. We want a secure Digital Filipino,” Aguda added.
“Globe supports this multi-sector industry initiative to fight online fraud and promote cybersecurity. We believe that a collective, sustained and vigorous effort is needed to ensure the safety of our customers and maintain the integrity of our technology infrastructures. As the leading digital solutions provider, Globe is spearheading the country’s digital transformation. We are committed to provide various solutions that will address the pain points of Filipinos, leveraging the latest digital technologies for a more sustainable future,” said Globe Group President and CEO Ernest Cu.
“Converge is one with the community in preventing the proliferation of online fraud,” said Converge CEO and Co-Founder Dennis Anthony Uy. “As a member of PSAC and as an internet service provider, we will fulfill our part in this data sharing agreement to curb the continuous rise in phishing and other cyber crimes. Collaboration efforts such as this will ensure our shared mission of wider access to digital connectivity is not taken advantage of by criminal elements.”
“We at PLDT and Smart have been significantly investing to fortify our own cybersecurity infrastructure, with the clear objective of safeguarding our customers against emerging cyber threats and vulnerabilities, including online fraud and other criminal activities,” said Smart and PLDT President and CEO Alfredo S. Panlilio. “Smart, in particular, has been detecting and blocking malicious messages, including SIMs and websites tied to fraudulent activities. These efforts are all part of a much broader program to elevate the quality of our customers’ experience by protecting them from threats and attacks. We at PLDT and Smart are no longer just securing systems and network infrastructures, we are securing and protecting communities, and helping secure the country itself.”
Also present at the momentous signing was Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) Managing Director Ben Castillo.
The Digital Infrastructure group of PSAC was formed to provide President Marcos with practical recommendations to promote wider spread internet access and to advance digitization initiatives. While technology and innovation have the power to stimulate equitable progress for the nation, there is the potential for abuse of these tools in the wrong hands. A foundation is necessary to ensure the balance of improved customer experience with appropriate security measures. This PSAC-initiated assistance will provide consummate aid to law enforcement authorities and ultimately lead to more consequential arrests and greater peace. The average Filipino need not live in fear, instead, they take full advantage of all the benefits technology has to offer.