Anti-cybercrime body sees Smartmatic system breach; Comelec maintains no sensitive data shared

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 28) — An anti-cybercrime agency on Friday told lawmakers it found no evidence of hacking of Commission on Elections servers, but believed the software provider Smartmatic system was “compromised.”

“On the contractor of the Comelec, Smartmatic, we believe that their system is compromised,” said Undersecretary Cezar Mancao of the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Center, an attached agency of the Department of Information and Communications Technology.

“We have identified a group that claimed and we have sufficient artifacts,” Mancao said during a public hearing of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System.

Mancao did not go into details, citing the sensitivity of information. Senator Imee Marcos and Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, heads of the Senate and House panels, granted Mancao’s request for a closed-door session.

Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo allayed fears that the supposed breach would impact the May 9 elections.

“The participation of the provider (Smartmatic) is more on just providing the software itself. We do not give them sensitive information,” Casquejo said.

“In the event that there are alleged hacking incidents in our provider, we are pretty much sure the election is still intact, because we do not provide them any sensitive data information,” he added.

CNN Philippines is trying to reach Smartmatic for comment.

Smartmatic supplied the automated elections platform and equipment since 2010. After figuring in controversies in past polls, there were efforts to ban the company from taking part as a service provider, but these have not materialized.

Early this month, news of an alleged hacking of Comelec servers spooked the public and prompted investigations. The Manila Bulletin reported that a hackers’ group downloaded files that included usernames and PIN of vote-counting machines. Comelec later discredited the report, saying the configuration files haven’t even been completed yet.

Meanwhile, Marcos and Barzaga requested the poll body to hold another round of mock elections to prove the technical issues that cropped up during the simulation in December were resolved. Casquejo said the poll body will check if it is feasible given the limited time left.