COMELEC probes alleged hack, says stolen info does not exist | #computerhacking | #hacking

FILE PHOTO: Commission on Elections (COMELEC) spokesperson James Jimenez shows sample ballots for the upcoming Philippine national and local elections in May, at the National Printing office in Quezon City Metro Manila January 28, 2010. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) is currently investigating an alleged hacking of their servers. This comes after Manila Bulletin’s (MB) technews team said that 60 gigabytes of data was illegally acquired from the Commission.

MB broke the news on Monday (January 10), saying that the stolen data “could possibly affect the 2022 elections.”

“The COMELEC is presently validating the allegations of the article published by the Manila Bulletin, specifically whether COMELEC systems have, in fact been compromised,” the director said.

However, Jimenez claimed that one of MB’s claims was questionable, considering that configuration files were still being developed.

“With no independent verification that a hack has indeed taken place, one thing immediately stands out: the article alleged that the hackers were able to ‘download files that included, among others, usernames and PINs of vote-counting machines (VCM).’” he said. “Such information still does not exist in COMELEC systems simply because the configuration files – which includes usernames and PINs – have not yet been completed.”

The director said that MB failed to provide evidence in the article that a hack truly occurred.

“Please note that the article offers scant substantiation for its assertions despite claiming that the authors had ‘verified that there was an ongoing hack.’ Indeed, the article does not even offer proof of such verification,” Jimenez said.

Furthermore, the Commission assured that they were compliant with the legal standards for data privacy and are still on the lookout for breaches that could have occurred in their system.

“COMELEC assures the public of its full and scrupulous compliance with the Data Privacy Act, as well as its continuing cooperation with the National Privacy Commission,” he said. “COMELEC will likewise continue its efforts to validate the assertions made by the article.”

Jimenez urged the article authors to come forward to assist with the investigation.

“We invite the authors to shed light on their allegations, particularly with regard to the “verification” they claim to have carried out,” he said.

“Considering that “news” like this could potentially damage the credibility of the elections, the COMELEC stands ready to pursue all available remedies against those who, either deliberately or otherwise, undermine the integrity of the electoral process.”

Even if confirmed true, this wasn’t the first time COMELEC’s systems were breached. Back in 2016, the Commission’s database was leaked by a hacker group.

Mark Ernest Famatigan is a news writer who focuses on Philippine politics. He is an advocate for press freedom and regularly follows developments in the Philippine economy. The views expressed are his own.

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