With the threat of COVID-19 looming over, the education sector had to make a significant choice. Face-to-face classes are not an option for the time being, which up to now still remains uncertain.
The call of the circumstances was beyond amplifying the use of innovative resources in teaching; rather, online and digital systems, as well as self-directed distance learning, should be manifested as the main modalities in the shift to flexible education.
As schools make the big switch and learn to adapt to The New Normal, many points must be put into utmost consideration. Effectively delivering lessons through a new medium is one thing, but keeping data and information safe in the cyber space is another, and that is an equally important matter.
On 09 July 2020, the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU), with the support of the Private Education Assistance Committee (PEAC), hosted a webinar titled “Cybersecurity & Digital Citizenship in the Education Sector.”
PACU President Dr. Caroline Marian S. Enriquez warmly welcomed the viewers and thanked the speakers in a short opening message. “Indeed, it is a strange new world that we are living in right now, and it is borderless; there is so much uncertainty with the things that we are doing, especially we are engaged in a cyber-world,” she acknowledged.
Noting that the transition is a learning journey, too, Dr. Enriquez expressed that the seminar hopes to give a sense of assurance and solidarity as the academic community navigates through the “cyber maze.” This call is quite relatable to her as she is also concurrently the President of Our Lady of Fatima University.
Next to greet the audience was Capitol University’s Laurice Faye Juarez, PACU Treasurer and Programs Committee Chairperson, who gave an overview of the webinar, which recognizes and aims to respond to the concerns of Philippine educational institutions as they make the significant move. She also emphasized that cybersecurity has always been an important factor, but since the pandemic’s sudden push towards digital and online education, “cybersecurity is critical now more than ever for educational institutions.”
“Our campuses are treasure troves of data which makes us ripe and attractive targets for cyber-attacks,” Juarez said.
The first speaker was Art Samaniego, Tech Editor of the Manila Bulletin, who discussed the Basics of Cybersecurity. “As long as we don’t follow the basics of cybersecurity, the danger will always be there,” he explained. In defining cybersecurity as defense from malicious attacks, he also said that it affects everyone in a whole institution.
Samaniego also identified cybersecurity threats, attacks and vulnerabilities to hacking, such as phishing emails, unattended social media accounts, and simple human errors that could endanger cybersecurity. Alongside this, he gave helpful tips to secure online accounts and information.
Irene Corpuz, Head of Information Security Section based in Abu Dhabi, was the next speaker to share her expertise. In her talk, she specified “Information Security Challenges in Higher Education”, which include the use of legacy systems and outdated equipment, the lack of research visibility for IT staff, and so on.
She likewise mentioned hacking incidents that have occurred in Philippine universities recently and identified the types of attacks. Furthermore, she also looked into why such cyber-attacks happen in universities.
Moving forward, Corpuz gave a glimpse at the future of cyber attacks, where she stressed their continuously evolving nature as organizations enhance their own security methods.
Dr. Franciso D. Napalit, Dean of the School of Computing, Holy Angel University (HAU), then presented the HAU Professional Science Master’s in Cybersecurity experience and best practices. He also shared his insights on the importance of making students aware of cybersecurity issues and responsible online use, especially in The New Normal where several tasks are done through the internet. Such awareness and safety measures must also be taught by parents themselves, and it is because “the world without the internet is not known to them [the students].” This makes them the most vulnerable online, according to Dr. Napalit.
As a piece of advice, he urged the audience to be proactive in ensuring cybersecurity in the organization and asserted the importance of training the people who protect the systems. “You are the master of your domain,” and it must be manned 24/7 lest it gets compromised, he said.
The last speaker for the perceptive webinar was Joseph Pacamarra, Chief Executive Officer of Cyber Security Philippines – CERT. In his talk, “Agile Security System & Academic Institution”, he discussed the “Modern/ Pandemic Education Modals & Aggregates”, as well as the “Cyber Battlespace.” From a more technical perspective, he also gave recommendations for schools on cybersecurity.
A question and answer also took place, with the speakers sharing more of their expert opinions and suggestions for the viewers.
To formally close the program, Engr. Bernard Villamor, President of the Cebu Institute of Technology University and the Corporate Secretary of PACU, gave some words of thanks to the speakers and participants. “The challenge now is how might we take this new information and make our schools more cyber-secure? How might we help our community better now and in the future in an evolving world of AI-enabled tools and AI-driven threats coming?” he ended.