De Lima seeks probe into data breach of court documents from OSG


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima is alarmed over reports of serious data breach of sensitive court documents from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) which has the dangerous potential of causing severe consequences to ongoing judicial proceedings involving key government agencies.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 713 urging the appropriate Senate Committee to investigate the recent data breach and the continuous proliferation and alarming trend of cyber-attacks against the government and private firms in the country to end the abuse and misuse of pertinent information of the public.

“The far-reaching ramifications of this breach could lead to greatly influencing ongoing court cases, and may even lead to the information being used to identify witnesses or attempt to intimidate victims. Therefore, such cyber-attacks demand a thorough investigation and a swift recalibration of government policy on cyber-security,” she said.

“There is a need to urgently address the persisting vulnerabilities of our cyber-security infrastructures and expeditiously put in place policies and safeguards to protect our citizens and institutions from assaults and exploitation of hackers and criminals,” she added.

Recently, UK Security company TurgenSec reportedly disclosed that some 345,000 sensitive court documents from the Office of the Solicitor General of the Philippines related to ongoing legal cases were made publicly available online and could have been accessed by anyone who knew where to look for at least two months.

TurgenSec said that the nature of these documents is alarming because it “may have the potential to disrupt [or] undermine ongoing judicial proceedings,” revealing that documents exposed were said to have contained sensitive keywords such as “Private”, “Confidential”, “Password” and “Witness.”

The security company likewise said that the breach also included topics on intelligence, terrorism, drugs, execution, the opposition, the military, on COVID-19, and even on President Rodrigo Duterte.

The security firm said that given the “particularly alarming” nature of the incident, it emailed the OSG and the Philippine government twice in March, but it did not get responses on both occasions.

De Lima, a former justice secretary, said the OSG should inform the Senate of the extent of damage caused by the cybersecurity breach, as well as the litigants whose information were compromised.

“The OSG must ‘publicly outline the extent of the information exposed and breached, and what steps are being taken to ensure this cannot happen again,’” she said. “The exposure of information of a particularly highly sensitive nature must not be ignored.”

Before using their resources in private cases, the lady Senator from Bicol stressed that the OSG must first ensure that their core functions are properly done, including protecting the interest and private information of their clients, which are agencies of the national government.

“The OSG must be as swift as it has been in going after its declared enemies, in tracking down the perpetrators of the continued cyber-attacks against it which jeopardizes not only matters of State concern, but as well as pertinent information relating to government agencies and private individuals which could have also been likely leaked,” said De Lima.

This is neither the first attack against the OSG, nor an isolated incident. It may be recalled that hackers which identified themselves as the Phantom Troupe were able to deface the OSG website in December 2016.

Last December 2020, the vulnerability of the country to cyber-attacks was confirmed by no less than National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. when he admitted in a Senate hearing that the country has no “operations center” to defend against cyber-attacks on a national level. (30)

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