Manila: With it's growing number of computer and internet-capable mobile phone users, the Philippines now counts among the countries most prone to cyber crime.

According to Senator Edgardo Angara the country ranks high among countries in the region susceptible to cyber crimes and attacks as well as malicious programmes such as URL phishing that allows hackers to remotely control another computer.

Angara, chair of the Congressional Committee on Science Technology and Engineering (Comste), cited a report from Symantec, an internet security firm, shows that 87 per cent of Filipinos have fallen for cyber attacks including malware invasion, phishing scams and sexual predation.

"A law is necessary that will allow enforcement agencies to prosecute the offenders and provide for more international collaboration in prevention, apprehension and prosecution of cyber criminals," Angara said.

The lawmaker also noted that among those frequently targeted by cyber criminals are financial services.

On Thursday, Angara filed and sponsored the Cybercrime Prevention Act in the Senate. The measure is aimed at fighting on-line computer related offenses such as child pornography, cybersex, fraud and forgery.

Angara said that this bill will help the government protect and safeguard the integrity of computers, communications systems, networks databases and the confidentiality and safety of data stored in them from abuse, misuse and illegal access.

It also provides the means for government to adopt the powers needed to prevent and combat these offenses by facilitating the detection, investigation and prosecution of cyber criminals both domestically and on the international level.

There have been several instances in the past when Filipinos in their home country as well as abroad have fallen victim to cybercrimes.

Angara said that once the measure is passed into law, computer users will be protected from illegal access, interference of data and systems and misuse of devices such as computer programmes and stealing of passwords. Angara also added that the bill also covers content related offenses specifically cybersex, child pornography and unsolicited commercial communications such as email spamming.

Based on Angara's measure, offenders will be imprisoned or fined up to P1 million (Dhs 85,262). Corporate violaters will be made to pay up to P10 million (Dhs 852,623).

Presently the Philippines has four agencies that fight cybercrime, the Anti-Transnational Crime Division (ATCD) of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, the Task Force on E-government, Cyber security and Cybercrimes under the Department of Justice, the Philippine Computer Emergency Response Team (PH-CERT) which is a purely voluntary, and the government Computer Security and Incident Response Team which is a jointly managed team under the Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security and the national police.

Angara stated that the proposed Cybercrime Prevention Law would allow these agencies to prosecute the offenders and provide for more international collaboration in prevention, apprehension and prosecution of cyber criminals.