Manila: The government technology arm has warned foreign as well as Philippine based hackers against vandalising Internet websites as it further cautioned that such actions could only serve to ramp up the conflict to more destructive proportions.

The Department of Science and Technology's Information and Communications Technology Office (DOST-ICTO), in a statement, said the defacing of foreign websites allegedly carried out by local hacker groups, was "neither sanctioned nor condoned" by the Philippine government, and thus must be stopped at the soonest.

While the defacing of websites is an occasional occurrence perpetrated by miscreants, there had lately been a noticeable increase in attacks lately targeting Philippine government websites.

On Wednesday, the latest sites to have been attacked were that of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) as well as the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA). The attacker or attackers claim to be from China and that its action was aimed informing that a disputed sea territory in the South China Sea (West Philippines Sea) belongs to their country. Similarly, a separate group of hackers responded and claimed the contrary for the Philippines' behalf.

"We understand the concern of our local hacker community on this issue. However, exchanges such as this one will not benefit anyone and could possibly lead to bigger problems in the future for the Philippines and China and escalate the already tense situation at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal)," explained Louis Casambre, Executive Director of DOST-ICTO.

The DOST-ICTO official said attempts at distributed denial of service (DDOS) from foreign origins on the domain were detected recently and promptly blocked by government IT administrators. As a result, access to several government websites were blocked or deliberately delayed arising from the DDOS attacks.

DOST Secretary Mario Montejo for his part, expressed his displeasure on the hacker attacks. "These skirmishes in cyberspace are unsanctioned by either government and are largely outbursts of public sentiment by private citizens from either country regarding the current situation. It is our job in government to seek diplomatic solutions to these issues and not let them get out of hand," Montejo said.

IT experts concur that the hacking of the government websites exposed the vulnerability of certain sites, prompting renewed calls for tighter, more stringent online security standards.

Casambre noted that along with the cybercrime bill currently undergoing legislative review at both chambers of Congress, the DOST-ICTO is working closely with the Office of the President in drafting an Executive Order to establish a top-level body to spearhead government's efforts on cybercrime and cybersecurity.

"The creation of this body will strengthen the necessary coordination and implementation of uniform security standards in government," he added.