Connect with us

Boto mo to!

TMAS: ‘Smear’ tech in wrong hands

Cabarios theorized that those behind the text blast against Marcos Jr. used a portable cell site device



An electronic text blast disguised as a disaster alert warning “marred” the filing by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. of his candidacy for president on Wednesday.

Marcos’ chief of staff, lawyer Victor Rodriguez, quickly disowned the stunt and decried it as a “demolition job unleashed by those who obviously want to frustrate his candidacy.”

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has opened an investigation into the matter as it may have violated several laws, according to NTC Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios.

Only the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) is allowed by law to issue public alert warnings through the telecommunication companies.

NDRRMC Executive Director Ricardo Jalad denied any request to telcos pertaining to Marcos Jr. filing his CoC was made from their side.

Cabarios theorized that those behind the text blast against Marcos Jr. used a portable cell site device.

But what are these mobile cell sites, and who are allowed to operate and own the machines? Here, the Daily Tribune, takes a look at the text messaging alert system (TMAS) device.

TMAS is a portable device that can fit inside a small bag and be powered using the auxiliary power outlet in a car. It is a self-contained SMS broadcast system or more commonly known as text blast machine.

Its use is strictly regulated for government offices to disseminate information, particularly for disaster risk reduction and management.

The main feature of TMAS is its capability to live detect active mobile phones in a specific area and contact them via SMS. Some models of the TMAS can cover an area up to a radius of 1.5 kilometers, while newer models claim reach up to 12 kilometers.

Because TMAS is location-specific, it is beneficial in making public service announcements, and in issuing search and rescue, and emergency alerts.

The system plays a vital role in government agencies making national security and emergency announcements. It also has some business applications, mainly promoting a particular product in a specific area or target market.

The critical features of the TMAS make it attractive to politicians during campaigns. It can promote a specific candidate or even sabotage an opposing camp, like what Rodriguez claimed was done to Marcos Jr. during his CoC filing.

Because of its small size and portability, it can be used in a moving car to send SMS alerts. The TMAS can also hack a mobile number so the user can make it appear that a particular person or entity is sending the SMS alerts.

Many of those who received the alleged BBM alert messages were members of the press covering the CoC filing in Pasay City and some individuals within the vicinity.

Cabarios noted the difficulty in catching or tracking down users of TMAS, because they are very mobile and the SMS origin could be lost once the machine is turned off.