IT grad, 23, arrested for Comelec website hack

Ghio Ong - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Law enforcers captured the alleged mastermind in the hacking and defacement of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) website on Wednesday night.

Paul Biteng, a 23-year-old new graduate of information technology, was arrested by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) at his house along G. Tuazon and Miguelin streets in Sampaloc, Manila at past 7 p.m.

Agents also seized his personal computer, which will be subjected to digital forensic examination, to check his activity before, during and after the hacking.

Biteng was arrested by virtue of a search warrant issued by a Malabon City court.

He will be slapped with charges for violation of Section 4A-1 of the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which pertains to “illegal access to the whole or any part of a computer system without right.”

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista told reporters in a briefing yesterday that Biteng himself “admitted that he defaced the website.”

“He wanted to show how vulnerable the website is to hacking,” Bautista said. “He wanted the Comelec to make sure the security features of the vote counting machines would be implemented during the election.”

The Comelec chief said Biteng should have just written the poll body and they would have addressed the matter.

He said the NBI is also looking for Biteng’s two possible cohorts, although their participation is not yet known.

Biteng does not belong to any political party, nor was he paid by anyone to do the hacking, according to Bautista.

NBI director lawyer Virgilio Mendez said the agency will also apply for search warrants for the two possible cohorts.

“Our efforts to unravel everything are continuous,” he said.

Dummy account

NBI cybercrime division head agent Roland Aguto Jr. said Biteng used a dummy account to perform the defacement.

“The hacker did not use his real identity, location and Internet protocol (IP) address to do it,” he said.

Aguto said the agency had been looking for Biteng for three weeks, immediately after the Comelec website was defaced.

But Biteng was “very cooperative” in the probe, Aguto said.

He added that the NBI will immediately come up with a report as soon as the forensic probe on Biteng’s personal computer is done.

Technical group formed

The Comelec has formed a technical working group that will “try to recover the data that were compromised, look after the safety and security of the website and make sure it never happens again.”

At dawn on March 27, hackers – who introduced themselves as members of hacktivist group Anonymous Philippines – defaced the Comelec website, saying they wanted to show the hacking might expose the vulnerability of the entire electoral process, which has gone automated.


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