September 5, 2022 | 11:02am
MANILA, Philippines — A resolution has been filed at the Senate seeking an investigation into the spam and phishing text messages that mobile phone users have been receiving regularly and that have raised privacy and security concerns.
These scam messages have prompted lawmakers to renew a push for SIM Card registration, a measure that ICT experts and rights advocates said could impact people’s privacy and might not work to curb the scams anyway.
RELATED: Scam attempt prompts Zubiri to renew push for SIM card registration
Senate Resolution No. 133 filed by Sen. Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian in August but sent to reporters Monday morning noted that the most recent spate of spam messages in the past few weeks now include the receiver’s name.
“It is alarming that while major telecommunications providers claim to have already blocked a significant number of spam and phishing text messages, the problem continues to hound many telco subscribers,” the senator, who filed a bill in the 18th Congress to require SIM Card registration, wrote.
In response to dodgy job offers and suspicious links sent over SMS, Globe Telecom Inc. announced last year that it blocked nearly 71 million spam messages and deactivated 5,670 mobile-phone numbers over a six-month period over complaints. PLDT Inc. said it had locked more than 23 million text messages for attempting to get consumers’ personal data.
The inclusion of the receiver’s name indicates a breach of consumers’ right to privacy and this breach also stirred fear online that personal data information has been exposed to data leak or data breach.
Most spam messages being reported contain information that makes them appear to come from reputable or reliable sources and attempts to obtain a user’s sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details.
Government has duty to protect privacy
In a separate statement sent to reporters Monday, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno said that he backed the proposal of former National Privacy Commission head Mon Liboro to require the registration of data brokers so the government can monitor and police their activities .
“The government must step up and do everything in its power to stop the prevalence of spam messaging. It is the government’s job to protect the privacy of the people so that those who want to take advantage of SMS do not become victims,” Diokno said in mixed Filipino and English.
An interagency group led by the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center was created in November 2021 to address the issue, but Gatchalian said this has not stopped scam texts.
“It is clear that the steps taken by the inter-agency group to address this problem are not sufficient as subscribers continue to receive spam and phishing messages. More interventions need to be done by the government to effectively stop such activities,” he ended.
READ: Privacy body completes initial probe into text scams
Digital advocates: Teach cybersecurity in schools
In a separate statement, Digital Pinoys, a network of digital advocates, also said that the Department of Education should work with the National Privacy Commission so that students can be taught about basic steps in securing their personal information and ensuring their safety in cyberspace.
“We encourage DepEd to also start teaching cybersecurity to students as they are among the most vulnerable in cyberspace. They are more susceptible to scams and exploitation as they are not fully aware of the risks that come along with their gadgets,” Digital Pinoys national campaigner Ronald Gustilo said in the statement.
Gustilo said that in light of the latest controversy over personalized spam texts, it is high time that the government took steps in ensuring that the risks are known even to the younger generation by including cybersecurity in basic education.
“Now that we are using gadgets like smartphones, tablets and laptops for education, we should also teach students how to take care of their personal accounts, and how to make sure that it will not be compromised. DepEd can create a curriculum where they teach cybersecurity from the basics up to the advanced levels of cybersecurity,” he also said.
The group also urged government agencies and local government units distributing gadgets for the use of students to ensure that the gadgets are safe from cybersecurity risks. — Franco Luna