PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) cybercops have arrested three hackers accused of claiming they have gained “access” to the Smartmatic System and were offering their services to politicians who want to divert the result of the May 9 elections in their favor, PNP chief, General Dionardo B. Carlos said.
According to the top cop, members of the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG), in coordination with the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC), arrested the three hackers identified as Joel Ilagan alias “Borger”, Adrian Martinez alias “Admin X”, and Jeffrey Limpiado alias “Brake/Vanguard/Universe/LRR” during separate entrapment operations in Imus City in Cavite and Sta. Rosa City in Laguna province.
The hackers were members of the so-called “XSOX Group”.
“This operation is part of our effort to have clean and honest local and national elections. This is proof that the public can give their full trust to the PNP organization in securing the people’s votes from being altered – that may endanger the integrity of the elections,” the PNP chief said.
The three are now facing charges for violation of Republic Act 10175 or the Anti-Cybercrime Prevention At of 2012, specifically for hacking the Smartmatic System, disrupting the websites of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the National Power Corporation (NPC), hacking credit cards and other online transactions and “ransomware” committed against some local commercial websites.
“Ransomware” is described as a type of malware from cryptovirology that threatens to release the victim’s personal data in public or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid. While some simple ransomware may lock the system without damaging any files, more advanced malware used a technique called cryptoviral extortion.
PNP-ACG Brig. Gen. Robert T. Rodriguez said they filed the criminal charges against the trio with the assistance of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Prosecution Service.
“In light of this huge achievement, the PNP will continue to closely monitor the online activities directed to manipulate the election results,” Gen. Carlos assured the public.
He also emphasized that the successful PNP-ACG operation was made possible thru the help of various PNP units and other law enforcement agencies.
CICC Executive Director Undersecretary Cezar Mancao II made it clear that the hackers apparently do not have the capability to alter the election results and were merely scamming gullible politicians, mostly from the provinces.
He said that while it is true that the trio got inside Smartmatic with the help of ex-Smartmatic employee Ricardo Argana who gave them access to the system, they never got close to altering the 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.
The CICC official said 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.
Argana first surrendered to the NBI but later on was reported to have been missing after he was allowed to go home.