A strong and credible cyber defense posture
Cybersecurity is a collective concern for nations and economies, and is another vital area of cooperation and partnership.
The steady expansion of the digital sector has facilitated the growth and development of the Indo-Pacific and furthered the interconnectedness of states in the geopolitical and economic spheres. It has heightened the connectivity of the global community.
This same digitization, however, has given rise to security vulnerabilities in cyberspace.
Infested by cyberattacks, cyber espionage, and other illegal digital operations, Indo-Pacific states are faced with the problem of reducing and countering such threats. This is best achieved through the realignment of strategic interests and the formation of alliances.
One of the region’s blueprints for responding to increased cyber activity is the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). The framework prioritizes the “connected economy,” with the goal of promoting sustainable growth by building stronger, fairer, and more resilient economies. This emphasis on the “connected economy” is meant to encourage comprehensive engagements of like-minded states in pursuing opportunities and addressing pressing issues in the digital economy, including enacting standards on cross-border data flows and localization. By taking part in the IPEF, developed and developing countries—including the Philippines—can close the digital divide and promote effective coordination on cybersecurity and capacity-building initiatives.
As for the Philippines, President Marcos Jr. has repeatedly declared his support for digital transformation. During his speech at the 77th United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Marcos stated that the country is preparing for the future by employing a governance framework that pursues digital solutions, especially as the country recovers from the pandemic.
The current administration must explore opportunities to engage in bilateral, minilateral, and multilateral initiatives such as capacity-building and expertise-sharing activities with like-minded partners such as the United States.
In the age of multipolarity and increased uncertainties, the threat of cyberattacks against the government is a serious security concern. Cybersecurity must be treated as a matter of national security. The country’s digital infrastructure needs to be strengthened and protected from ongoing exposure to cyber threats, thus policies and initiatives must be developed and put into action.
Recognizing that building a state’s cyber capabilities is a regional concern, the Stratbase ADRI Institute stresses the need for collaboration to enhance defensive and offensive cyber capacities, increase state interoperability, and ensure collective security. Cooperation at both the national and regional levels will make it possible for the nation to create and sustain a secure online community.
More importantly, the institute advocates for the responsible utilization and behavior of states and other actors in cyberspace, and urges all to recognize that international law governs both online and offline spaces.
Only by creating a strong and credible cyber defense posture will the Philippines and the Indo-Pacific be able to achieve a secure and trustworthy digital community.
At last week’s roundtable discussion organized by Stratbase ADRI Institute in partnership with the US Embassy in the Philippines, we were fortunate to have experts in technology, security, and defense to share their insights on what needs to be done to achieve a strong cybersecurity posture.
Paolo Pascetta of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency committed to provide cyber hygiene and cyber workforce development training here early next year, because relationship with treaty allies in the region, including the Philippines, is important to them as they confront threats from state and nonstate actors. Meanwhile, the former director of the Threat Operations Center of the US National Security Agency, Dan Ennis, said government and private sector partnership is key in this endeavor, and that a risk management approach is best in confronting this daunting threat.
Indeed, the absence of a robust cyber defense will undermine, and even negate, all our gains in digital infrastructure. Urgency and collaboration are the order of the day.
Dindo Manhit is the founder and CEO of the Stratbase Group.
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