30 APR 2022, Isahan with Jake Maderazo featured the Executive Director of the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) Undersecretary Cezar O. Mancao II following the arrest of hackers involved in the Smartmatic data breach. Mr. Maderazo began the interview with the sentiment that with the rampant rise to prominence of Information and Communications Technology, combating cybercrime is more important than ever. Usec. Mancao explained that the CICC, albeit new in the field, is hard at work in tackling as many cybercrime cases as possible.

The arrested suspects include the mastermind, Jeffrey, who had connections with former Smartmatic employee, Ricardo Argana. This connection led to the data breach of Smartmatic, including security passwords and manuals. The event led to Jeffrey’s group boasting on the Dark Web that they were able to sell the poll results to the highest bidder.

Following his arrest, Jeffrey cooperated with officials to display the extent of his access to the election systems and the process by which the hacker group planned to rig the elections. Usec. Mancao also expressed resolve in holding Smartmatic accountable for negligence in the data breach, and he plans to continue the investigation.

Jeffrey’s hacker group XSOX has a history of cybercrime, including hacking numerous commercial websites such as S&R and Puregold, taking down the DOST website, and attempting to hack the Rappler website, among others. The investigation surrounding their arrest also revealed that, apart from the elections, they committed other cybercrimes including credit card hacking and the like.

The arrest took place in the hacker group’s place of operations in Imus, Cavite through an entrapment operation. Cases have already been filed against the suspects under the violation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, particularly System Interference, Illegal Access, and Attempt to Commit a Cybercrime. As the case progresses, more charges may be added.

The hacker group does not actually have the capability to affect election results, and any more progress they could have made has been thwarted by their arrest. As of the interview, there are no confirmed candidates and parties that have struck deals with the hacker group, and any mention of them can only be attributed to hearsay.

ANO ANG MENSAHE MO SA MGA AHENSIYA NA NAGPOPROTEKTA SA BOTO MO SA MAY 9 ELECTIONS?

Pakiusap po sa DICT, sana maging safe ang boto ko, ligtas sa dayaan at hacking.

As far as the CICC is concerned, the COMELEC, the DICT, and both its systems have their full confidence in making the elections safe for voters. Any errors or shortcomings from the past elections have already been addressed and acted on by the COMELEC for the upcoming elections. Would-be hackers would need to go through the complex security systems set in place by the election officials.

Mr. Maderazo highlighted that the CICC had yet to be operationalized during the previous elections which had its own share of controversy. Usec. Mancao responded that the responsibility of the integrity of the elections still falls on the COMELEC’s shoulders, although the CICC will remain in the periphery to assist whenever and wherever it can.

Now that the CICC is in operating capacity, Mr. Maderazo asked Usec. Mancao for his message to hacking groups. Usec. Mancao warned these groups that the improved forensic facilities of the CICC and its partnered agencies will find and trace their digital footprints and they will get caught and arrested. He also warned politicians seeking these groups that only scammers exist.

Among other concerns, Mr. Maderazo brought up the possibility of tampering by foreign interests, particularly that of China and the USA, with the worry originating from the fact that Smartmatic is a US entity. Usec. Mancao reassured that the CICC, along with the COMELEC and the rest of the Philippine government, will strive to keep the sovereignty and integrity of the elections. To end the program, Usec. Mancao reintroduced the CICC and its mandate, which is safeguarding the country from the threat of cybercrime.

For the full coverage of the interview, follow this link: “CICC Executive Director Usec. Cezar O. Mancao II with Radyo Pilipino”