By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter
FILIPINOS can expect more phishing attacks as unemployment in the country continues to worsen, experts said.
Cybercriminals use text messages to trick mobile phone users into visiting malicious websites to obtain their personal information, including banking information, credit cards, and addresses.
“The phishing machinery relies on urgency or something that’s closest to the hearts of consumers, so when you see it and it’s meaningful to you, you click on it,” Yeo Siang Tiong, general manager for Southeast Asia at Kaspersky, told BusinessWorld last week.
If unemployment rises, attacks can be expected to come “in the form of job scams,” he added.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the unemployment rate in the country jumped to a three-month high in May, while job quality deteriorated despite increased economic activity. Unemployed Filipinos rose by 165,000 month on month to 2.927 million in May.
There were 6.668 million underemployed Filipinos in May, 269,000 more than the 6.399 million underemployed in April.
Many of the job offers made by fraudsters pose as being from giant tech companies like Amazon.
“I’m an Amazon HR. You are invited to be part of our team. You can work from home. The hourly salary is P9,000. Accept the job,” read one of the phone messages from an unknown number. The message included a link to a website.
The PLDT group has said it blocked more than 600,000 text messages linked to smishing, hoaxes and spamming from January to May.
Meanwhile, Globe Telecom, Inc. said it blocked more than 138 million spam and scam messages from January to June 15 this year.
University of the Philippines Professor Emeritus Rene E. Ofreneo said he is not surprised that cybercriminals are taking advantage of the job situation in the country.
“Jobs available to Filipinos are inadequate, and for many Filipinos, job offers from abroad are a liberation, an economic liberation, because most of the jobs available locally are of low quality and low-paying, and in the first place, it’s very difficult to find jobs these days,” he said in a phone interview.
“It is important to warn Filipinos. They are really preying on those who are gullible and desperate for better life and better opportunities,” Mr. Ofreneo said.
Mr. Ofreneo added that the government and the private sector should immediately address unemployment and underemployment in the country.
“The inadequacy of available jobs needs to be looked into — meaning, inadequate in terms of our support, income and skill matching — not just the level of joblessness,” he said in mixed English and Filipino.
SECURITY SOFTWARE, STRATEGIES NEEDED
Kaspersky’s Mr. Yeo said Filipinos should have security software on their smartphones to protect themselves from cybercriminals.
“How much financial transactions do you do on your phone compared to your laptop? We used to install protection software on our laptops because we did most of our transactions there, but when we shifted to mobile, we didn’t change our behavior. This is probably because there’s a false sense of security,” he said.
Secuna, a cybersecurity testing platform, said the government and companies should rethink their cyberdefense strategies as cyberattacks are expected to further increase amid the shortage of cybersecurity talents in the country.
Citing a study by cybersecurity company Fortinet, Secuna said most organizations in the Philippines struggle to hire cybersecurity talents due to a skills shortage, resulting in more severe cyberattacks.
“The first line of defense is awareness. With the rising threat of cybercrime activities, it is most important that we reconsider and create new strategies to recognize vulnerabilities and their warning signs to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals, Secuna Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder Allan Jay “AJ” Dumanhug said in an e-mailed statement.