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Philippines Government run cybersecurity platform to monitor the country's 3rd telecom network

Updated: Jul 26, 2019

The government of Philippines recently awarded a licence to a consortium to operate a telecom network - the 3rd in the country.

China Telecom, ranked 2nd in China with China Mobile taking 1st place and China Unicom in 3rd place, is part of this consortium, known as Mislatel Consortium. This consortium won the bid against rivals like PLDT Inc.’s Smart Communications who partnered Japan’s NTT Group and Globe Telecom whose partner is Singapore Telecommunications.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) post the award, publicly announced the following:-

  1. Mislatel Consortium's network will be monitored by a government run cybersecurity platform designed to guard against spying and online threats,

  2. Even though Globe and Smart also have foreign partners, the Philippines government have no national security issues with their foreign partners as compared to Mislatel whose partner is from China.

Late in 2018, the DICT apparently awarded a contract of approximate value RM110 million (or equivalent of USD25 mil) to a venture that included Israel-based Verint System Ltd for the supply of a so-called cybersecurity management system project that will be used to collect a variety of threat information to different sources at the web, illegal trading sites and Critical Information Infrastructure sectors such as energy, financial and banking and to monitor the network of telco providers.

In a report in the Haaretz, the longest running newspaper currently in print in Israel, in Oct 2018, the report states that Israel has become a leading exporter of tools for spying on civilians. Dictators around the world – even in countries with no formal ties to Israel – use them to eavesdrop on human rights activists, monitor emails, hack into apps and record conversations.

How ironic. Again alas, it is because an organisation from China is part of the consortium. From a cost benefit perspective and taking into consideration national security is a major concern since the consortium comprised of an organisation from China, wouldn't it be more economically and less worrying for the government of Philippines to 'disqualify' Mislatel from participating in the tender from the beginning than to award it to the consortium with the worries hanging over their heads? Mislatel may have won the bid fairly but the government could impose conditions which precludes any of the bidders to enter into any partnership with organisations that originate from China. This could have saved the country from the additional hassles of using government resources to monitor the network.

Looking at the allegations that were levelled against China Telecom in a research paper co-authored collectively by the U.S. Naval War College and Tel Aviv University that the company was 're-routing' traffic back to China for analysis, does the company needs to be part of the consortium for them to be a security threat as alleged? 

According to Wikipedia, Paranoia is an instinct or thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of delusion and irrationality. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself.


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