ICT office mulls hosting gov’t websites under its fold to prevent further attacks

MANILA, Philippines — The Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) is considering hosting government websites under its facilities to prevent further attacks from hackers allegedly from China, as defacements continue amid the escalating tension in Scarborough Shoal.

ICTO Executive Director Louis Casambre said Thursday that facilities owned by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) have so far proven resilient against the recent attacks, which have seen several government websites defaced and broken into.

“We are looking at the possibility of offering to host other agencies within the next few weeks,” Casambre told InterAksyon.com in an email interview. Today, government agencies and local government units have the autonomy to establish their own online presence, with some outsourcing such functions to third-party providers. There currently is no centralized data center that manages all of the government’s Web presence.

The ICTO executive, however, refused to name the government websites under their care, nor the IT facilities that they currently have, so as to shield them from being exposed to greater risk.

On Tuesday, alleged Chinese hackers have posted sensitive backend information of some Philippine government websites in a hacking forum, encouraging others to break into the websites and deface them. (http://bbs.blackbap.org/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=2551#lastpost)

The same forum site was reportedly the venue of discussions between the hackers who broke into the Department of Budget and Management website on Tuesday.

The hacktivist group PrivateX, one of those who retaliated against Chinese hackers and infiltrated several Chinese websites, stressed the need for government to step in and protect its Web properties.

“Kahit manalo tayo sa cyberwar wala tayo mapapala kung di kikilos ang government. Di kami takot sa Honker Union at iba pa nilang ka alyansa,” the group said. (Even if we win in the cyberwar, we gain nothing if the government does not act. We are not afraid of Honker Union and their allies)

One member of the Chinese hacking group responded and said they do not really care if Filipinos deface their government websites, since they do not have respect for their own government, too.

“What we want are those Islands,” the poster said. “One move and you will down to your knees. We already have the aces. Go ask for Anons helps. We are the half billion of China. Tank and the team will attack you one of these day (sic).”

ICTO’s Casambre, meanwhile, admittedly said that their hosting is a “short-term solution” to the problem, but promised that they are “working with our public- and private- sector partners for a long term solution.”

“This again highlights the need to establish formal coordination between government agencies of their Cyber Security,” Casambre said.

We would again like to appeal to the public to our IT talent to remain calm and avoid escalating the situation,” he added.

The attack continues

Earlier today, the Department of Budget and Management released a second statement with regard to the continued cyber attack on its official website.

The budget office said: “At around 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 25, 2012, the DBM website was once again subject to attack, resulting in a denial-of-service error that prevented users from accessing the site.”

Unidentified parties, according to the DBM, defaced the website earlier that same day at around 2:00 p.m., rendering the website temporarily unavailable.

“We are issuing this statement to caution other government institutions against similar attacks that may be launched against their online systems,” the statement added.