PLDT, Smart beef up arsenal against online child abuse

On February 9, 2021, the world will commemorate Safer Internet Day, and PLDT, the country’s largest integrated telco, and its cellular affiliate, Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), will ramp up efforts to combat online sexual harassment and trafficking of children (OSAEC).

PLDT and Smart have invested close to Php 2 billion this year to run their advanced cybersecurity operations center.

This is where we predict, prevent, detect, and respond to all types of cyber threats including those related to OSAEC. This is where we identify phishing and scamming activities. Now, this includes notifying our enterprise subscribers of attacks and high-risk activities inside their network,” described Angel Redoble, FVP and Chief Information Security Officer of PLDT, Smart and ePLDT.

As a result of the multibillion-peso investment, the two companies have been able to block 3,020 domains that host illegal materials involving minors, as required by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

“We expanded our sources on these illegal sites so we can block as many domains as possible. We’ve been doing open-source threat intelligence gathering, purchasing available commercial threat intelligence and receiving information from our government through law enforcement agencies on which sites to block,” said Francisco Ashley Acedillo, Smart AVP and Chief Strategy Officer of the Cybersecurity Operations Group.

PLDT and Smart, on the other hand, are going further, taking the battle against OSAEC to the material stage. The aim is to limit access to a single piece of content but not limiting access to the legitimate website where it was posted.

Crucial to this platform is PLDT and Smart’s membership with the UK-based Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) – a leading international non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating online child abuse content. Once completed, this will enable both companies to gain access to an extensive database of web pages hosting these objectionable materials.

Amid these engagements, both firms admit they need to do more in curtailing abuse against children over the internet. But they also need the help of lawmakers in resolving conflicting laws on child pornography and data privacy that hamper efforts to curb OSAEC.

PLDT and Smart have actively participated in discussions to strengthen the country’s Cybercrime Prevention Law. They have invited lawmakers and regulators into their cybersecurity operations center to gain a deeper understanding of how they fight online threats.


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