BIR, BOC ordered to strengthen systems against rising cyber threats

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  • The Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs were ordered to further fortify their systems against hacking and other cyber threats
  • Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III issued the directive over concerns of the increasing number of online scams

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III ordered the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Bureau of Customs (BOC) to further fortify their systems amid the rising cases of hacking and other cyber threats.

During a recent Department of Finance (DOF) executive committee meeting, the finance chief told the country’s main revenue generating agencies to ensure “cybersecurity measures are up to date and effective against all sorts of threats.”

He said the recent hacking incident involving BDO Unibank and Union Bank of the Philippines and complaints of several teachers who have lost money from their Land Bank of the Philippines accounts prove the rise in cyber attacks with more and more Filipinos resorting to online transactions amid the pandemic.

LandBank has issued a statement that its systems remain secure against any form of hacking, and that its initial investigation showed the teachers were the victims of phishing.

Phishing is a scheme in which hackers pretend to be legitimate banking representatives by sending fake emails or text messages via bogus bank websites. The goal is to obtain confidential details from the banks’ clients and use the information to pilfer or make unauthorized money transfers from the victims’ accounts.

Finance Undersecretary Antonette Tionko, who oversees both BOC and BIR as head of DOF’s Revenue Operations Group, assured Dominguez that cybersecurity is covered by ongoing digitalization and modernization programs of the two agencies.

“Please make sure that that’s up to date because apparently, it’s getting more and more prevalent,” Dominguez told Tionko.

Long before the pandemic broke out in March 2020, Dominguez had already directed DOF and its attached agencies to vigorously pursue digitalization to help boost revenue collections and further improve the delivery of public services.

In 2020, Dominguez also ordered government financial institutions (GFIs) and other agencies under the DOF to work together on a cost-effective defense strategy to shield their respective systems from potential cybersecurity threats and other possible risks and data breaches in the digital landscape.

He instructed GFIs, state-run pension fund and insurance agencies, and revenue and treasury agencies to enter into their respective memoranda of agreement on a shared cyber defense strategy.

This involves institutions such as the LandBank, United Coconut Planters’ Bank and the Development Bank of the Philippines; Insurance Commission, Philippine Health Insurance Corp., Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp., Government Service Insurance System and Social Security System; and Bureau of the Treasury, BIR and BOC.