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DOST chief urged to launch probe on 'cyberattacks' on alternative news sites

A group of scientists has challenged Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña to launch an “impartial” probe on the department’s alleged involvement in the cyberattacks on some alternative news sites.

“We challenge DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña to conduct an impartial investigation and explain to the public why the PREGINET, a government infrastructure under its management, is being implicated in the cyberattacks of alternative media,” AGHAM–Advocates of Science and Technology for the People said in a statement Thursday night.

“This attack is another reflection of the precarious position that our current checks and balances are standing on. If a major media outlet can be closed down, smaller independent media outlets are fair game to the current status quo,” it added.

PREGINET, or the  Philippine Research, Education, and Government Information Network, is the country’s only National Research and Education Network (NREN) that interconnects academic, research and government institutions.

According to its website, PREGINET consists of two aspects: Commodity Internet and connectivity to international Research and Education Networks (RENs) in which PREGINET is connected to. PREGINET also entitles its partners to other services such as videoconferencing, video streaming, voice over IP (VoIP), web hosting and server co-location.

AGHAM said the use of the IP address of government institutions through a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack has raised more questions than answers.

The group asserted that it is only through an independent investigation that the tagged government agencies can allay the fear of the public that their taxes are not used for these activities.

“DOST cannot just issue a denial without assuring the public of accountability,” it said.

Apart from the DOST’s alleged involvement in the cyberattacks against some media outlets, AGHAM said the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ use of PREGINET is “dangerous and inimical to democracy.”

“DOST must shed light on AFP’s use of the IT infrastructure and must not brush off potentially criminal activities happening under its nose. Is DOST aware of AFP’s activities using this network?” the group asked.

AGHAM also asked DOST if it will take a stand against the “undemocratic” act of attacking the media and live up to its #ScienceForthePeople tagline.

“In a working democracy, the state and all its institutions should be able to work hand in hand with different socio-civic groups for the benefit of the people. By making an enemy of the media and cause-oriented groups, a whole-of-nation approach in the Duterte administration’s counterinsurgency program is only adding fuel to the people’s fiery anger instead of ending the insurgency,” AGHAM ended.

A Sweden-based digital forensic group, Qurium Media Foundation, released a report on June 22 which traced the recent cyberattacks on alternative news site, Bulatlat, to DOST’s PRIGNET and the Philippine Army.

The Philippine Army said the military does not condone such action against media and underscored that they will never infringe the freedom of expression.

The DOST, in a statement posted on its Facebook page, said the implication of its involvement in the cyberattacks "is unfounded and patently false."


It explained that DOST’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute is mandated to assist other government agencies by allowing the use of some of its IP addresses in the local networks of other government agencies.

“Given this, the statement that DOST potentially took part in initiating the alleged cyberattacks is false. This statement was solely based on the tracked IP address and does not translate to the Department’s involvement in the matter,” the statement read.

It added that DOST remains committed to working towards a progressive Philippines, with science in full service of the Filipino people.  —KBK, GMA News