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Cybersecurity for sustainable progress: Protecting our connected world 

As the Philippines continues to advance its sustainability initiatives, how does cybersecurity contribute to and support these efforts in fostering a sustainable future for all? 

By Alan Reyes
Country Manager, Fortinet Philippines

Embracing sustainability has become critical for public and private sectors in today’s world, fueled by the need to address environmental concerns to safeguard the planet’s future. Adopting sustainable practices within strategies also allows businesses to enhance their reputation, meet consumer demands, improve efficiency, and retain and attract talent, while this enables the government to bolster the country’s economic resilience and enhance public well-being. 

With Philippine organizations’ ongoing commitment to sustainability, the Sustainable Development Report 2023, released by the United Nations (UN), revealed that the country is at the 98th spot among 166 member states, achieving an Index Score of 67.1—just slightly below the regional average of 67.2. 

As the Philippines continues to advance its sustainability initiatives, how does cybersecurity contribute to and support these efforts in fostering a sustainable future for all? 

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The more interconnected, digital society 

The digitalization of various aspects of our society, sped up by the pandemic, has created new avenues for people to connect with family and friends conveniently, perform work-related tasks, access entertainment, shop effortlessly, conduct banking transactions, and more. As the public and private sectors recognized the benefits of a more interconnected society, they have expedited their efforts to undergo digital transformations to offer a wider range of services to their citizens, employees, and customers. 

In addition, the integration of smart technologies and systems has empowered sustainability efforts within organizations. For instance, smart cities offer interconnected systems for power supply, water management, traffic control, and more to provide more efficient and sustainable urban areas. Smart buildings employ advanced technology to enhance building functionality, integrating features such as access control, heating and cooling, energy conservation, and safety and security systems. 

Meanwhile, smart devices provide real-time updates and simplify communication. Smart businesses offer more personalized customer services while efficiently managing inventories, distributing resources and data closer to access points, and more. Interconnected critical infrastructures can respond more effectively to demands, adapt to changing environments, and reroute essential services to reduce disruptions in service delivery. Aside from that, there are also smart homes, smart transportation, e-health services, and many more. 

This reality displays how technology has become more embedded in people’s lives. However, as our modern society and economy increasingly rely on digital infrastructures, encompassing energy, water supply, telecommunications, banking, government services, healthcare, and transportation, among others, the absence of robust cybersecurity measures poses significant risks to society.  

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When cyberattacks target these critical infrastructures, they can significantly affect national security, the economy, people’s safety and privacy, and the continuity of businesses. According to a recent report by Secure Connections, an information and communications technology (ICT) advocacy group in the country, organizations dealing with critical information infrastructure (CII) may face daily losses of PhP6.15 billion if multiple breaches occur at the same time, with the energy sector being the most affected at PhP2.8 billion. 

Cybersecurity’s vital role in modern society 

In the digital era, cybersecurity plays a crucial role in protecting the foundational elements of our society. It strengthens national security, upholds digital privacy, safeguards individuals, fosters business resilience, and instills confidence in the digital space. 

National security.  

Cyber conflicts, espionage, hacktivism, and cyberterrorism have significant implications for a nation’s security. To ensure resilience, it is critical to safeguard society against threats brought by hacktivists, nation-states, and cyber attackers. Cybersecurity can help maintain political stability by protecting critical infrastructures and economic health from cyber threats. Having robust cybersecurity measures also contributes to upholding human rights, improving trust in institutions, and empowering an equitable society. 

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Digital privacy.  

Privacy is considered a fundamental human right. However, this becomes increasingly challenging in the digital age as individuals willingly share their data for convenience. While digitalization holds tremendous potential for innovation and enhancing lives, it should not compromise digital privacy—especially now that cybercriminals employ more advanced malicious software to steal private and sensitive data, including government-issued information, financial records, and more. By adopting cybersecurity measures, organizations empower individuals to reap the benefits of technological progress, innovations, and conveniences without worrying about privacy. 

Individuals’ welfare.  

Our society relies on the seamless operation of various industries to function every day. These encompass transportation, food and medicine, water, energy, and more, which are all connected to our digital infrastructure. Any disruption to the essential systems of these infrastructures caused by cyberattacks can put people’s lives at risk. 

Business resiliency.  

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Cyberattacks can cause significant harm to businesses, impacting financial stability, reputation, and customer trust. Because of this, organizations need to implement thorough oversight, protocols, and cybersecurity guidelines. With effective cybersecurity measures, businesses can enhance resilience and ensure long-term sustainability.

Digital trust.  

Trust is a vital component of every transaction—be it from purchasing goods and services online to even international diplomatic relations. However, with the evolution of digital technology, trust can be easily compromised by cyberattacks, including phishing, where malicious actors impersonate trusted organizations or individuals to disseminate malware or through sophisticated deepfake content. To counter these threats, organizations must initiate efforts to educate all demographics, such as children, parents, educators, and the workforce, to increase awareness about these issues. 

As we embrace a digitalized world, where nearly all vital infrastructure and services are interconnected via the internet, cybersecurity has become an essential component in ensuring the sustainability of our society now and in the future. Like the issues of climate change, gender equality, diversity, and business ethics, cybersecurity must be integrated into the sustainability strategies of every company. Each organization must establish the necessary measures, protocols, and governance frameworks to ensure that the digital realm we rely on remains secure, dependable, and sustainable. 

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