POSTSCRIPT / May 30, 2013 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Cyber-hacking worse than Chinese bullying?

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – This former US naval base just 120 miles from the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales that China has occupied will soon see a heightened American military presence.

The port calls of US naval vessels of the US Seventh and Pacific fleets with loads of sailors on R & R (rest and recreation) are under cover of the US-PHL Visiting Forces Agreement.

Chairman and administrator Roberto V. Garcia of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority said Americans spend as much as $500 each day when they are in town, lending a big boost to the local economy.

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GROWTH CORRIDOR: But Subic’s main source of revenue is actually its being an investment hub, mostly for manufacturing, gaming and tourism-oriented establishments.

Garcia said SBMA is fine-tuning its strategic linkage with Clark Freeport in Pampanga to make the all-weather freeway between the two industrial-tourism sites a growth corridor.

Manufacturers in Clark can bring in their raw materials duty-free through Subic and then export their finished products through the same port. On the other hand, materials that have to be flown to Subic can pass through Clark.

The two former US bases need not compete against each other, Garcia said, but must complement each other in drawing investors and tourists.

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TOP PROFIT: Garcia reported that in its 20-year history, SBMA achieved for the first time last year its highest profit of P789 million, a dramatic turnaround from its P1.2-billion loss in 2011.

He attributed the robust performance of the agency to increased revenues, reduced operating expenses and a favorable foreign exchange rate.

He said the 16-percent revenue increase was brought about by new major projects in seaport operations such as the Vale ore transshipment project and the start of commercial operations of Phase 2 of the new container port.

Garcia reported that increased internal revenue and customs collections last year enabled SBMA to turn over to the national government P7.62 billion.

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NBN-ZTE: It may have been providential that the $329-million contract with Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE to build a National Broadband Network was cancelled in 2007 after irregularities were exposed.

Days ago, Chinese hackers were reported to have gained access to designs of more than two dozen major US weapons systems, while also stealing the blueprints for Australia’s new spy headquarters.

Imagine the security implications of a foreign contractor winning a deal to design, construct and enjoy some access to the national network where all government communications would pass.

While the bullying in the open seas by Chinese naval vessels can be monitored and countered with dispatch, it is harder combating espionage and sabotage carried out through a broadband network.

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CYBER-HACKING: Reuters quoted a recent Washington Post item saying that the compromised US designs included those for combat aircraft and ships as well as missile defenses vital for Europe, Asia and the Gulf.

For its source on the Chinese cyber-hacking, the Post cited a report prepared for the Pentagon by the Defense Science Board.

Among the weapons mentioned were the advanced Patriot missile system, the Navy’s Aegis ballistic missile defense systems, the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The Post said the espionage would “give China knowledge that could be exploited in a conflict, such as the ability to knock out communications and corrupting data (and) speed China’s development of its defense technology.”

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COPYRIGHT: Considering the nature of the national security information being filched electronically, there is suspicion that Chinese government operators are behind the hacking.

While China is a member of World Intellectual Property Organization, it has the resources and all the reasons to want to crack military and industrial secrets and dip into copyrighted materials of the West.

Copyright infringement has been a thorny issue between Washington and Beijing, the latter being pressed to be more serious with its responsibilities as WIPO member.

With its comparatively less developed telecommunication technology, the Philippines appears to be more vulnerable to possible massive cyber-attack.

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PENTAGON REPORT: The Reuters report also said: “In a report to Congress this month, the Pentagon said China was using espionage to modernize its military and its hacking was a serious concern.

“It said the US government had been the target of hacking that appeared to be ‘attributable directly to the Chinese government and military.’

“China dismissed the report as groundless. It also dismissed as without basis a February report by the US computer security company Mandiant that a secretive Chinese military unit was probably behind a series of hacking attacks targeting the US and stealing of data from 100 companies.”

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CHINA SIDE: Reuters continued: “In Australia, a news report said hackers linked to China stole the floor plans of a A$630-million headquarters for the Australia Security Intelligence Organization.

“The attack using the computers of a construction contractor exposed not only building layouts, but also the location of communication and computer networks, it said.

“Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, asked about the Australian report, said China disapproved of hacking.

“’China pays high attention to the cyber security issue and is firmly opposed to all forms of hacker attacks,’ Hong said. ‘I don’t know what the evidence is for media to make such kinds of reports.’

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CAMI FORUM: The second regular Balitaan of the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI) will be held tomorrow, Friday, at the “Bale Balita” (House of News) at the Clark Freeport in Pampanga. Members and their guests will exchange news and views over breakfast from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 30, 2013)

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