Gov’t Websites Hacked

MANILA, Philippines --- Hackers, apparently trying to challenge the newly signed Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, struck Wednesday night and defaced the websites of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), and a unit of the Department of Health (DOH).

There were also reports that the websites of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region 3 and the Pilipinas Anti-Piracy Team (PAPT) were also hacked. However, the DENR denied the report.

The hackers, under the name Anonymous Philippines, attacked the government websites in protest of the new law against cybercrimes.

The BSP website was down for about two hours, starting before midnight of September 27 and partially restored by 12:30 a.m. As of 12 noon yesterday, the website's statistics section and other data-heavy sub-sites are still inaccessible.

BSP Deputy Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo was the first to comment, assuring public users who regularly check the website for financial indicators such as exchange rates and interest rates, that the central bank would soon fix the problem. "It's done, we're doing something about it," he said.

In an official statement, BSP Deputy Governor for Resource Management Juan de Zuñiga Jr. said: "For a few hours, our website was inaccessible to those who needed to get real-time information from the BSP. We apologize to the public that we serve for this interruption." He added, "as of 2 a.m. today (Thursday), the website of the BSP has been up and running, restored and able to serve the public once again."

Zuñiga said the BSP's internal information technology group had worked on the website's immediate restoration. "(Our) security firewall kept our database protected."

Just last week, the BSP announced that it will start implementation of a new system that will accommodate the online registration of both public and private foreign borrowing plans under its Foreign Loan Approval and Registration System or FLAReS. All applications for approval/registration of loans will be submitted via Internet to the BSP.

Aside from investments and other transactions registered and done online, the BSP's website is also the main and reliable source for the country's crucial economic data on external accounts, foreign exchange reserves, and all information about the banking and financial system.

Anonymous Philippines, in a statement posted on websites, said the cybercrime law "effectively ends the freedom of expression in the Philippines." It called the law "notorious" and harsh in its wording.

It complained that "the language of the bill is cunningly designed to make you think it only applies to individuals who are deep in cyber-technology and doesn't apply to everyone."

Basically, the group claimed, the new law can imprison anyone who posts comments on blogs, Twitter, or Facebook and other social media sites on the Internet that are found to be libelous.

Anonymous Philippines described the new law as "the most notorious act ever witnessed in the cyber-history of the Philippines."

The MWSS said a third-party host of its website is currently fixing the problem.

The government agency added that it would be replacing the current program platform that would "secure" their website and ensure that there would be less chances of being hacked.

A lot of people access www.mwss.gov.ph on a daily basis, but the message that greeted users yesterday was: "The website is currently under development. Please check back with us later. Thank you."

Anonymous Philippines said that technology helps people connect from all over the world, and give Filipinos a chance to speak their minds.

"It is just so disappointing that our government, in adopting our 80-year-old antiquated libel laws to the Cybercrime Law, again seems to have retarded our march with the rest of the world with respect to giving full force to the people's freedom of expression. We ask for a revision of the bill for the betterment of the Filipino denizens," the hacker said.

With this development, Malacañang urged hackers to put their grievances in the proper forum instead of resorting to hacking.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, in a press briefing yesterday said that those who have concerns on the newly signed law should show their protest in the proper forum.

As this developed, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III filed yesterday a fourth petition seeking to declare unconstitutional certain provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

In seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) and oral arguments, Guingona said certain provisions "are too vague" and might violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

Guingona III and Senator Francis Escudero said some provisions in the anti-cybercrime law are "vague" and vowed to initiate amendments to the newly signed law.

Both agreed there are provisions in the law which are deemed "unconstitutional" and admitted they were "unaware" when the particular provision was inserted during the period of amendments.

"On its face, this law is unconstitutional," Guingona stressed.

The law also does not set a fair standard of penalty for those who committed libel. "While libel committed through traditional print media is punishable by up to four years and two months imprisonment, online libel is punishable by a shocking 12-year imprisonment period," he noted. (With reports from Madel R. Sabater, Hannah L. Torregoza, and Rey G. Panaligan)

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