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  • Marijan Hassan - Tech Journalist

US, Japan, and Philippines forge a cybersecurity alliance amid escalating threats

In response to mounting cyber threats posed by China, North Korea, and Russia, the United States, Japan, and the Philippines are set to unveil a landmark cybersecurity partnership to strengthen their defense against malicious cyber activities. The initiative is set to be formalized during high-level trilateral talks in Washington between US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The strategic alliance follows a series of cyberattacks attributed to groups linked to China's military, including the notorious Volt Typhoon. These attacks, targeting critical infrastructure networks in the Philippines and US territories in the country, have been on the rise with recent data showing a 20% increase in attack attempts against national government agencies.

"Traditional US allies in Asia — Japan, Taiwan, Philippines — are of high interest to Chinese-aligned attackers," says Robert McArdle, director of forward-looking threat research at TrendMicro. "There has been an increase in tensions in the region recently as well as important political events including presidential elections that China maintains interest in."

The agreement between the US and the Philippines is part of the "Hunt Forward" initiative by the US that has also seen them partner with South Korea and Japan with the three governments agreeing to consult on regional threats and share data on foreign information manipulation.

But while the trilateral cybersecurity alliance will be pivotal in strengthening collective defense, experts also believe it will most likely increase the already strained diplomatic relationship between Southeast Asia and China.

"Incorporating 'Hunt Forward' operations within US cyber strategy with allies in the Indo-Pacific will most likely agitate already sensitive ties between Southeast Asia and China, but the United States needs to increase its cyber presence in the region due to its constant exposure to illicit cyber activity," Jason Bartlett, a research associate in the Atlantic Council's Energy, Economics, and Security for a New American Security group, said.

"Numerous state-sponsored hackers, especially from North Korea, have operated from within Southeast Asia and other regions in the Indo-Pacific for years with little punitive backlash from local and national governments."


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