The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday said it is now in the process of developing its “end-to-end encryption” capability as part of the efforts to ensure that its classified communications are protected from interference.

“Right now we are developing the ‘end-to-end encryption’ capability because we are now also developing our cyber-capability, we have just activated AFP Cyber Group and the Major Services, the Army, Air Force, Navy have also activated their own cyber units and all of these are geared towards enhancing beefing up our cyber communications’ defense and security capability,” AFP chief-of-staff, Gen. Gilbert Gapay said in an online forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP).

This is in response to questions on whether the AFP sees the presence of Dito Telecommunity towers and equipment in military camps as security risks.

End-to-end encryption refers to a form of communication where only the communicating users can read the messages and prevent eavesdroppers from intercepting or decoding the information.

“We made some risk assessment as far as security is concerned and based on our studies the (setting up) of Dito, of some of their communication facilit(ies), towers in camps and installations of the AFP pose no security threat,” Gapay said.

Also, he added jamming, eavesdropping, and disruption of data can be done anywhere in the globe.

“One advantage of having (these) facilit(ies) by Dito inside camps is we could monitor them closely, because once they are here inside for example in Camp Aguinaldo, we could inspect them anytime, we could check what equipment they’re (going to) put up, we can enlist third party (firm or audit team) to see what kind of equipment, software, hardware, they are (installing),” Gapay said.

This includes personnel tasked to man these facilities, he added.

Gapay said the same security process was adopted when Globe and Smart made a similar agreement with the AFP.

“We adopted the same criteria when we allowed Globe and Smart to also locate some of their towers and facilities inside (our) camps,” he added.

Also, Gapay said the AFP is only using commercial communications systems when passing unclassified information, adding a more secure platform is in use when communicating classified information.

Also, he added Dito is proposing to co-locate in 22 military camps and installations and that their applications would have to undergo a thorough evaluation.

“So there are still, two, three steps before finally they could put up facilities inside camp(s), just like the process we adopted when we allowed Globe and Smart to (co-locate) inside military bases,” Gapay said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said all Dito Telecommunity equipment and facilities will be placed in locations where local carriers, Smart and Globe, are also located, based on a similar Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed by these telecommunication firms.

Dito was conferred with the status of New Major Player in the telecommunications industry by the National Telecommunications Commission on Nov. 19, 2018.

The AFP and Dito Telecommunity signed the co-location MOA in September 2019.

Based on the agreement, the AFP will determine specific locations with its rental value for use of Dito Telecommunity in the installation and management of its communications sites without undermining the operations of affected AFP units.

The telecommunication firm is also required to “furnish all equipment, labor, and materials necessary to effect the co-location of its facilities and shoulders all expenses in connection with or incidental to the co-location” and payment of all taxes, permits, licenses, and other charges. (PNA)

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