Comelec, Smartmatic deny security breach claim by Imee Marcos

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 17)— Senator Imee Marcos on Thursday accused Smartmatic, the provider of the automated elections system (AES) and vote counting machines (VCMs), of a security breach.

Citing Facebook posts from a purported hackers' group called XSOX, the incident supposedly happened when Smartmatic's contractual worker took out an official laptop and leaked its contents.

This allegation came months after a Manila Bulletin report in January claimed that Comelec's servers were hacked, something the poll body has repeatedly denied.

Sen. Marcos claimed this was discussed during an executive session among senators, poll executives, and law enforcement operatives.

"Nasa Facebook eh, makikita ninyo sa isang XSOS na nasa Facebook, nandun nakalatag kung ano-anong impormasyon," said the lawmaker, who is head of the Senate Committee in Electoral Reforms. "May mga password, user word. Sabi nila, bulok na at non-usable but nevertheless, the wealth of detail and the depth of knowledge is a little bit alarming."

[Translation: It's on Facebook, you will see a wide array of information on the XSOS Facebook. There are passwords and user words. They said the data is old and unusable but nevertheless, the wealth of detail and the depth of knowledge is a little bit alarming.]

Sen. Marcos, whose brother Bongbong Marcos is running for president, said she fears this could affect election results.

"We don't know, but the potential for very serious security breach is now there because it appears Smartmatic has all these contractual employees who have access to very confidential data, locations, and other facilities," she said.

The January news report claimed that flowcharts as well as passwords for canvassers and electoral board members were leaked.

Former Comelec chairman Sheriff Abas belied the report saying these data did not yet exist when the supposed hack happened.

Smartmatic clarified that no such breach happened.

"Hindi po 'yun totoo [That is not true]," Smartmatic spokesman Christopher Louie Ocampo told reporters. "Ang Smartmatic po, to be very clear, ay hindi po involved sa [is not involved in] processing or storing of personal data of any voter for the 2022 elections."

"Anyone can make this document and post it on Facebook and say this can possibly affect the 2022 elections," he added.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez also expressed confidence that the 2022 election systems have not been compromised.

"From the very beginning, sinasabi natin [we are saying] that Comelec is fully in charge of the elections," Jimenez said. "We are confident that even in this particular case, walang naganap na hacking [no incident of hacking occurred] and therefore there will be no impact of that alleged hacking to the election results for 2022."

The National Bureau of Investigation is looking into the incident.