CYBERSECURITY must be included in the Philippines’ basic education curriculum as a first line of defense, an official of global cybersecurity firm Kaspersky said.

This can also help improve the government’s prioritization and budget for cybersecurity amid increasing threats, Adrian Hia, Asia Pacific managing director at Kaspersky, said in an interview with BusinessWorld on the sidelines of the company’s Asia Pacific Cybersecurity Weekend in Bali, Indonesia last week.

“The better way to get the attention of the Philippines and its government is to start with education at the basic level,” Mr. Hia said. “In high school or lower, just have one module on cybersecurity.”

“To do many big things like SIM registration… whether you like it or not, it will take time,” he added. “Everybody will try, but if you choose to click on a malicious link, what can we do?”

Mr. Hia said basic cybersecurity education can increase government awareness and public understanding about emerging threats.

Kaspersky said the Philippines was the second most attacked country by web threats last year, with 39,387,052 internet-borne cyber threats detected. The country placed fourth in 2021.

The Philippines also saw 2,409,085 brute force attacks (trial and error) among remote workers, 52,914 financial phishing cases among business, 24,737 crypto-phishing cases, 15,732 mobile malware cases, and 50 mobile banking Trojan cases last year, according to data from Kaspersky.

Mr. Hia noted that companies’ spending for cybersecurity has not gone up despite them ramping up their digitization efforts.

“What we analyze as the problem is that bad people are thinking, ‘Why do we need to rob a bank? Just do cybercrime. I get the same amount of money,’” he said. “Nobody is bringing up their cyber defenses, so that’s the easiest way.”

“This is unfortunately something we need to be wary about.”

Less than 25% of mobile devices in the Philippines are protected, Mr. Hia said, citing data from Kaspersky.

Hackers and fraudsters have shifted to attacking mobile phones from personal computers via scams on messaging apps due to the vulnerability of those devices, he said.

“This is where the hackers are really intelligent nowadays, and we can see that shift,” he said.

“Educate to not click on links unless it is from a trusted channel,” Mr. Hia said. “It’s really that resilience to navigate the digital world safely and responsibly.”

Alongside protection software, good cyber hygiene habits at a young age can also help curb threats, he added.

Kaspersky will hold its Kids’ Cyber Resilience project in the country in partnership with the Department of Education on Sept. 15, which will involve public school teachers in Valenzuela City.

“We will be helping educators learn about the basics of cyber hygiene, get familiar with Kaspersky’s free tools and resources for teaching online safety in the classroom, and how to support kids to become cyber resilient,” Mr. Hia said. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola