CICC says arrested hackers can’t manipulate polls, only out to scam politicians
MANILA, Philippines — The hackers who were arrested for offering services to politicians who want to alter election results in the 2022 general polls apparently do not have the capability to do such things, the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) claimed on Tuesday.
Instead, CICC executive director and Undersecretary Cezar Mancao II said that the three hackers were really only out to scam politicians.
Mancao clarified that while it is true that they got inside the system of automated election provider Smartmatic — with the help of an ex-employee who gave them access — the group never got close to altering election results.
“Sabi nila, actually naghanap sila ng mga kandidato na sumasang-ayon sa kanilang mga plano na magha-hack at papanalunin. Ayaw naming banggitin ang mga pangalan dahil sa probinsya, subalit meron na. At alam namin sa ngayon masasabi namin together with the PNP na ito ay napakalaking scam,” Mancao said during the briefing.
“‘Yong kanilang na-hack, totoo nga, meron silang access sa Smartmatic system no’ng una, subalit dun sa nakuha kay Argana, ay ganoon din, hanggang do’n lang sa preparation,” he added.
Mancao said that it is nearly impossible to hack into Comelec’s system and change the results of the elections, as hackers would have to face high-level security covered in multiple layers of protection.
“Pero sa actual election, hindi na ho (kaya) i-access ‘tong ating Comelec system na nakuha from Smartmatic. Ang dami hong mga klase-klaseng firewalls, multi-level checking,” the former intel cop noted.
Brig. Gen. Allan Nobleza of the Philippine National Police, who has been assigned to coordinate with the Commission on Elections (Comelec), said that he tried to ask the Comelec representative to explain things . However, Comelec’s information technology expert declined because of a tight schedule.
Still, Nobleza assured the public that the Comelec’s system is “foolproof.”
“We invited the presence of the Comelec IT expert regarding this concern, but they are too busy to attend this because of previous commitment today. But sir the Comelec assures the public that the systems, these are foolproof. It is next to impossible that this elections will be rigged, so napakahirap daw po talagang i-rig ito, it is next to impossible,” Nobleza said.
“So the Comelec assures the public that the system that they have in place — they have placed high-level security on their system, so napakahirap po talagang pasukin,” he added.
Information relayed by CICC earlier said that Joel Adajar Ilagan alias ‘Borger’, Adrian de Jesus Martinez alias ‘Admin X’, and Jeffrey Cruz Limpiado alias Brake/ Vanguard/ Universal/ LLR’ were arrested in an operation in Laguna and Cavite last Saturday.
The three, who belong to the ‘XSOS Group’, are facing cases for violating Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 for the following reasons:
- hacking the Smartmatic system
- disrupting the Comelec website
- hacking the Napocor website
- hacking the credit cards and other online transactions
- ransomware committed against local commercial website
Mancao said that even the hackers led by Limpiado — despite having access from ex-Smartmatic employee Ricardo Argana — conceded that it was hard to pull off such a stunt.
Some of the victims of the trio appear to be local candidates seeking elective posts, but the CICC chief declined to give out names as the list has not been validated.
“Sa initial statement ng ating mastermind-suspect, sinabi niya despite of the many access given by the contact sa Smartmatic, napakahirap daw talaga mang-hack sa transmission at saka sa results. More on mangi-iscam lang talaga sila,” Mancao noted.
Earlier, Mancao confirmed that the three hackers were connected to Argana who is currently missing after first surrendering to the National Bureau of Investigation.
Just this January, there were fears that the election results may be rigged in favor of a candidate due to rumors of Comelec being hacked. However, Comelec officials back then clarified that they are confident enough that their system cannot be hacked, as they did not see any evidence of a data breach.
But concerns about the elections resurfaced after reports about the ex-Smartmatic employee being involved in the data leak.
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