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ITMS: Serving and protecting the public through IT

o Phoebe Magdirila
19.10.2012 kl 00:03 | Computerworld Philippines

Celebrating its 47th anniversary this month, the Information Technology Management Service (ITMS) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) is slowly but dramatically changing the image of policemen.

 

Celebrating its 47th anniversary this month, the Information Technology Management Service (ITMS) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) is slowly but dramatically changing the image of policemen.

While most citizens still see policemen as tough guys who patrol the streets with guns and handcuffs on the ready, the ITMS is steadily transforming these "toughies" into computer-savvy professionals who rely on IT systems in their day-to-day work.

Headquartered in Camp Crame in Quezon City, the ITMS is primarily responsible for providing technology support for the many units and offices under the PNP. It looks for the IT hardware, network infrastructure, information system, software and online tool that best fits their specific needs, and makes these available to the concerned unit and office.

"With the advent of technology, organizations now invest in infrastructure such as these to help them in their daily operations. In the PNP setting, ITMS plays this vital role," says Police Senior Superintendent Joel Victor V. Canapi, ITMS deputy director. "ITMS gives support by providing the PNP's units and offices with technical experts in digital forensics, computer and hardware maintenance, information security, website development, project management, systems and networks."

ITMS was established way before the emergence of cloud computing, social media and even the Internet. Created in 1965, its first job was to provide the police force with a system for collating crime-related data. Then still called the Philippine Constabulary Data Processing Unit, this newly-formed unit used its database to aid crime studies for different law enforcement agencies locally.

Over the years, as more technology became available in cyberspace, ITMS has continued to arm the PNP with more modern systems and infrastructure. To date, there are over 30 operational and administrative systems that bolster the efficiency of the various units and offices of the PNP.

Among these is the datawarehouse project being maintained by the Data Warehouse Provisional Office. It is designed to provide front-line and mission-critical data access that aims to integrate disparate information system databases for easy verification of records across related databases, thus enabling effective decision-making by PNP leaders at the executive level. The project is now on its second phase where front-end online services will be developed.

Aside from the ITMS, other PNP units and offices involved in this project are the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM), Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO), Highway Patrol Group (HPG), Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies (SOSIA), Directorate for Personnel and Records Management (DPRM), Directorate for Logistics (DL), Logistics Support Service (LSS), Directorate for Human Resources and Doctrine Development (DHRDD), and Finance Service (FS).

During the latter part of 2011, the PNP launched three information systems -- the e-Rogue gallery system, the e-Blotter system and the e-Warrant system -- that aim to enable the nationwide crime data and online verification of warrants of arrest at the police station level.

Crimes Swiftly Evolving

However, even as the PNP steadily beefs up its ICT arsenal, criminals are also growing more adept in technology usage and are now using increasingly more sophisticated and advanced equipment.

"The PNP, as the primary government arm tasked to maintain peace and order, is now faced with growing challenges in cyberspace," Canapi says. "We at ITMS realize this and we recognize that we, as policemen, can no longer just rely mainly on our truncheons and shields, on firepower and armaments. The cyber world has now been added to the beat of the PNP which today uses ICT as a tool to promote our mission to serve and protect."

In the past few years, varied forms of cyber crimes have occurred -- hackers who want to access corporate and individual data, criminals who use social media to victimize easily-deceived preys, and many more. With the different means of communication and data access that the Internet provides, new ways of doing unlawful acts have emerged.

"We know, for instance, that criminals can use aliases in transacting via the internet, which makes it very hard to track them," noted Canapi. "To help us do our job, we collaborate with our partners from the academe, government, and private sector."

One of the projects that PNP did to combat cyber crime in previous years was the establishment of an Internet child protection program dubbed as the "Special Project Angel Net" (http://www.cidgangelnet.ph) that was spearheaded by the Anti-Transnational Crime Division (ATCD) of the CIDG. The project's main purpose was to address Internet-based child abuse and to promote Internet safety.

Programs like this, along with the recent passage of Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, go a long way toward combating increasing threats coursed through the Internet, according to Canapi, who added that there has long been a need for "laws that will balance privacy and security and punish cyber criminals to the law's full extent."

Forensic laboratories have also been established in General Santos City, Legaspi City, Zamboanga City, Davao City and Cebu City to complement the PNP's main laboratory in Camp Crame. Facilities and expertise continue to be strengthened to efficiently and effectively address the challenges in cyberspace, Canapi pointed out. The ITMS supports these efforts by detailing competent IT officers -- now Certified EnCase Forensic Investigators and Examiners, Certified CelleBrite Examiners, and Microsoft Systems Administrators -- in these laboratories. In addition, the PNP is now using CelleBrite Technology to forensically examine mobile phones.

Based on records from CIDG-ATCD, Facebook is where most cyber crimes occur. According to the recent study made by Socialbakers.com on Facebook Statistics for more than 200 countries, http://www.socialbakers.com/facebook-statistics, the Philippines ranked number 8th with 29.85% followers. Hackers, spammers, virus writers, identity thieves and other lawless elements follow the social network traffic and take advantage of these technologies for their personal gains.

Thus, the ITMS is urging users of social networks to follow best practices and enforce robust security policy measures religiously and regularly go to the ITMS websites, invitational talks and symposiums for more information.

Internally, ITMS does the same security measures for the PNP. "We ensure that the PNP ICT infrastructure is impenetrable," said Canapi. Its Web Services and Cyber Security Division is responsible for taking care of all the online programs and records of the entire police force and makes sure that they cannot be hacked by intruders.

In fact, in the latest rating of national government websites, the PNP website (www.pnp.gov.ph), a Stage 3 site under the United Nation-American Society of Public Administration index, ranked 91st among 323 government sites. The ITMS monitors this site 24/7 and is rightfully proud of the fact that, to date, it has not been defaced or hacked.

Spreading the Knowledge

The men and women in ITMS do not keep their IT knowledge to themselves. Since all the technical infrastructure and systems they create are being used down to the ground level, they understand that the policemen in operations -- those who man the police stations and patrol the streets -- also have to know how to use and manage them. Thus, the ITMS provides continuous training to police personnel through its Training and Research Division.

Yearly, ITMS conducts seven IT skill enhancement courses that include an office productivity course, fundamentals of networking and data communications course, webpage development course, multimedia course, computer hardware maintenance and troubleshooting course, and an introduction to database using Microsoft access programming course.

"We also conduct six other courses which we think are necessary in upgrading the skills of our personnel," Canapi said. These are made up of a cyber security awareness seminar, cyber security management course, web page development seminar for IT officers, content management course, and two seminars on web security.

ITMS provides extensive information security training especially for IT officers detailed to other PNP units and offices as well as Police Regional Offices so they can ably secure the ICT infrastructures in their areas of responsibilities. According to Canapi, the ITMS is the only unit with the most number of personnel detailed in the PNP nationwide. These personnel support the development of IT-related projects, maintain the ICT infrastructure, provide IT support, troubleshooting and maintenance of hardware, software and Internet connection, and conduct region-wide users' training.

Currently, a total of 163 personnel are on detail to different PNP offices which accounts for 70% of the total uniformed personnel of ITMS.

The ITMS also conducts training to help in the crafting of internal policies, studies the vulnerabilities of the current ICT infrastructure and recommends solutions to the PNP through the Directorate for Information and Communications Technology Management.

A Long Way

The ITMS has certainly come a long way from its establishment as the Philippine Constabulary Data Processing Unit in October 18, 1965. While it is no longer seen as "just the printer of PNP pay checks," it nevertheless continues to handle this task and is proud of the fact that, over 47 years, there has been no report of any PNP personnel not receiving their pay checks on time.

This is a result of the ITMS' 100% no-delay and error-free salary processing system which is made possible through the collaboration of its Systems Management Division, Data Management Division, Network Management Division and Computer Operations Division. Under this system, 1.7 million records are processed, 1.6 million CFCs printed, 3.4 million payslips printed every year with more or less 100 personnel working 8-hour shifts every day for 20 days every month.

However, this is but one of the many accomplishments of the ITMS as it continues to enable the PNP to modernize its operations and keep pace with the latest ICT trends. And is certainly just one of the reasons why, on its 47th anniversary, it was bestowed the PNP's most coveted award for the year as the Best National Administrative Support Unit (NASU).

"We take pride in congratulating the men and women of the ITMS for a job well done," Canapi said. "Thanks to their efforts, the ITMS -- the home of the PNP's unsung heroes -- was once again given the recognition it truly deserves.

Keywords: Internet  Software  Hardware Systems  Networking  Business Issues  
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