USAID partners with Palo Alto Networks to boost cybersecurity capacity in PH

Citing data illustrating increased ransomware attacks on Philippine consumers, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Palo Alto Networks (in the Philippines) teamed up to strengthen cybersecurity capacity building in the country.

According to Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Center (CICC), there are 37% of reported cyberattacks against online users in the country in 2020, while 73% of consumer data from small businesses were lost to breaches.

Under USAID’s Better Access and Connectivity (BEACON) project, Palo Alto Networks will work on improving the country’s digital infrastructure ecosystem, enhancing digital government services, and establishing a robust cybersecurity posture for the Philippines. The five-year, P1.65-billion (or around $33 million) project, will allow the cybersecurity solutions firm to develop programs and activities that will build a more robust and secure Philippine ICT ecosystem.

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The recent spate of text scams (smishing) has also put the country’s cybersecurity readiness and posture in question.

On the sidelines of the press briefing for the signing of the memorandum of understanding, CICC said “text scams have cost victims in the Philippines millions of dollars.” Mary Rose Magsaysay, deputy executive director CICC, said confirmed foreign crime syndicates are behind the text scams.

Technical assistance

The collaboration will provide technical assistance and resources to maintain an efficient, secure, and robust information, communication and technology (ICT) ecosystem to support the growing demand for digital transformation. It will also empower the country to improve its capabilities to defend against malicious entities by implementing a Zero Trust framework and building up cybersecurity talent through training and certifications.

Palo Alto Networks Zero Trust is a strategic approach to cybersecurity that helps secure an organization by eliminating implicit trust and continuously validating every stage of digital interaction. As hybrid setup has become the norm for many organizations, including public agencies, Zero Trust will help in securing remote access to data, applications and critical infrastructure.

“Governments are modernizing their networks to take advantage of digital innovations and improve the way they communicate with citizens. As they modernize their IT infrastructure, their cybersecurity must keep pace with these developments. Through this collaboration, we are keen to bring our expertise to help strengthen the defense posture of the Philippines’ ICT ecosystem and protect the digital way of life for Filipinos,” said Oscar Visaya, country manager for the Philippines, Palo Alto Networks.

The partnership is expected to increase the adoption of e-commerce and other digital services by increasing consumer confidence through awareness and promotion of safe computing practices, and the adoption of international standards and best practices.