NBI: Ex-employee of Smartmatic admitted 'deal' in systems breach | Inquirer News
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NBI: Ex-employee of Smartmatic admitted ‘deal’ in systems breach

/ 11:54 AM April 19, 2022
Money amounting to P300,000 and “training modules” were promised to the former Smartmatic employee tagged in a supposed security breach in exchange for access to the firm’s systems through his office-issued laptop, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said Tuesday.

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MANILA, Philippines — Money amounting to P300,000 and “training modules” were promised to the former Smartmatic employee tagged in a supposed security breach in exchange for access to the firm’s systems through his office-issued laptop, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said Tuesday.

During a hearing of the Senate electoral reforms and people’s participation committee, NBI Cybercrime Division Chief Victor Lorenzo presented a timeline of the alleged Smartmatic breach.

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Lorenzo’s presentation showed that an administrative inquiry was conducted by the company on January 12.

“In the administrative inquiry conducted by Smartmatic, he only admitted having been promised training modules in exchange for allowing them, the third party, to access his laptop in order to be connected to the Smartmatic facilities,” Lorenzo told reporters.

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“But when he appeared in our office, he admitted that he was also promised, aside from training modules, he was also promised money ranging from P50,000 to P300,000,” he added.

According to Lorenzo’s presentation to the Senate panel, charges of illegal access have been filed against the former employee.

The former employee, identified earlier by the NBI as Ricardo Argana, was hired by Smartmatic in August 2021 as a quality assurance staff, according to Lorenzo.

Argana was deployed to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) warehouse in November 2021 “to run some tests” on the automated election system (AES), Lorenzo added.

From December 28 to Jan. 2, Lorenzo said Smartmatic detected “unusual traffic and downloads logged” in the company’s systems.

Upon the completion of tests in the Comelec warehouse, Argana brought his laptop home, according to the NBI official.

“Unusual traffic” in Smartmatic systems “using VPN logs downloads were traced back to Argana” on Jan. 9, Lorenzo said.

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It was on Jan. 12 when Smartmatic conducted an administrative inquiry into the matter, senators were told.

Argana was then put on preventive suspension, according to Atty. Christima Robert Lim, Smartmatic’s legal counsel.

Senators were only informed of the supposed security breach in Smartmatic in March during an executive session.

“There indeed was a security breach in the Smartmatic operation,” Senator Imee Marcos, chairperson of the Senate electoral reforms committee, said last March 17.

JPV

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