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Lacson says extortion possible motive in Smartmatic hacking



Presidential aspirant and Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Saturday said he sees extortion as the possible motive behind the alleged breach in the system of Commission on Elections (Comelec)’s biggest software contractor Smartmatic.

In a radio interview Saturday, Lacson said the initial findings of his cybersecurity team affirmed the report of the Department of Information and Communications Technology-Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) claiming that Smartmatic’s system has been compromised.

“The NPC, NUP, and Partido Reporma have banded together. My team already knew it. We hired cybersecurity experts. I was just not able to report it to Senate media but that was also their initial findings,” Lacson said.

“The motive here is like the ones in the BDO [hacking], to extort. They want to extort and scare Smartmatic for them to compromise,” he said.

The CICC made the report in a Congressional hearing on Friday. Comelec commissioner Marlon Casquejo, who was also present in the inquiry, assured it will not impact the upcoming 2022 National Elections, saying the poll body does not share sensitive information to Smartmatic but solely publicly available data.

But Lacson said the worst is “inevitable” as he insisted that Comelec’s servers might also be infiltrated once it interfaces with its service contractor.

“It’s easy to say we should not be worried because it was the Smartmatic that was hacked …but it’s not that simple. The time comes, they will interface because Smartmatic cannot act as a standalone,” he said.

To fully investigate the extent of the hacking, the legislator agreed on the proposed executive session where CICC will elaborate the details of their investigation to the members of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System.

“They should explain everything because the integrity of the elections is at stake. What if the hackers sell whatever they have to a candidate? That’s very dangerous,” he said.

Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate exercised their oversight powers over Comelec following a Manila Bulletin report claiming that a group of hackers allegedly infiltrated the system of the poll body and was able to download 60 gigabytes of sensitive data including information on Comelec personnel, local and overseas Filipino voters, vote-counting machines, and voting precincts.

The poll body previously denied the reports and said they were open to investigations on the issue.

“As far as the Comelec is concerned, we are confident we were not hacked,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told reporters. “We see no evidence of any sort of breach, but we are working hard to validate these allegations.”