Comelec hacker faces 60 years behind bars
THE 20-YEAR-OLD information technology graduate accused of hacking the Commission on Elections (Comelec) website faces a maximum of 60 years in jail should he be found guilty of violating the Cybercrime Prevention Act.
On Monday, the Manila Prosecutor’s Office found probable cause to approve the filing of three charges against Paul Biteng—illegal access, data interference and misuse of device.
Although each offense carries a jail term ranging from six to 12 years, the penalty may be hiked by the judge trying the case to 20 years per offense since the crime committed involved a “critical infrastructure,” Chief Inquest Prosecutor Jovencio Senados said.
“When you commit a crime against critical infrastructures, the penalty will go [up] one degree higher. The Comelec is considered a critical infrastructure, especially now during the election period,” he told the Inquirer.
Biteng, however, may be freed temporarily should he be able to post bail at P200,000 per offense, Senados added.
The IT graduate was arrested on April 20 by the National Bureau of Investigation in his parents’ house in Sampaloc, Manila, for allegedly hacking the Comelec website last month.
The “Comeleak” incident resulted in the downloading of the personal information of the country’s over 55 million registered voters, considered by an Internet security firm as one of the world’s biggest government-related data breach.
The leaked data included names, birthdays, home and e-mail addresses, parent’s full names and in some cases, the passport details and text markers of fingerprints.
Despite the leak, the Comelec has assured the public that the outcome of the May 9 elections would not be affected.
According to the NBI, Biteng is a member of the hacking group Anonymous Philippines and considered one of the best in the community.
Based on the city prosecutor’s resolution, he was charged with violating the cybercrime law’s Section 4a which refers to “offenses against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems.”
The section defines illegal access as “the access to the whole or any part of a computer system without right.”
On the other hand, data interference is the “intentional or reckless alteration, damaging, deletion or deterioration of computer data, electronic document, or electronic data message, without right, including the introduction or transmission of viruses.”
The third offense Biteng was charged with—misuse of device—penalizes the “use, production, sale, procurement, importation, distribution” of a “device, including a computer program, designed or adapted primarily for the purpose of committing any of the offenses” provided by the law.
Initially, agents of the NBI Cybercrime Division charged the hacker only with illegal access which was approved by Inquest Prosecutor Wilbur Arimbuyotan.
Senados, however, included two more charges as Biteng’s actions also fall under the other categories.
In an interview following his arrest, Biteng admitted hacking the Comelec website with the aim of exposing its weaknesses.
He claimed, however, that he was not responsible for the data leak, saying this was done by two other hackers he met online.
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