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Pinoy hackers with terror links arrested

MANILA — A joint team of Philippine National Police and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has arrested a group of Filipino computer hackers with alleged connection to the Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah.

The PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) named Thursday those arrested as Macnell Gracilla, 31, Francisco Mañalac, 25, Regina Balura, 21 and Paul Michael Kwan, 29.

According to CIDG, Gracilla hails from Carmen Rosales, Pangasinan and now resident of Unit 5, Montiville Place, Greenville Subdivision, Sauyo, Quezon City. Manalac and live-in partner Balura are both from 89 Sampaguita Extension, East Bagong Barrio, Caloocan City. Kwan resides at 21 Hebrew St., West Bagong Barrio, Caloocan City.

The suspects, according to the CIDG, are accused of hacking the trunkline of US telecommunications firm AT&T and diverting US$2 million to the account of terrorists.

The four were arrested Wednesday by virtue of a warrant that stemmed from a complaint filed by AT&T regarding hacking activities in the Philippines. The arrests were undertaken at several target areas in Metro Manila.

Senior Supt. Gilbert Sosa of the Anti-Transnational and Cyber Crime Division (ATCCD) said suspect Kwan had been arrested in 2007 following an international crackdown launched by the FBI against suspected terrorist cells involved in terrorist funding.

The group was already in contact with Pakistani Muhammad Zamir, a JI member, according to Sosa, citing information furnished to them by the FBI. Zamir reportedly paid the group on a commission basis through local banks.

Zamir’s group, which was later tagged by the FBI as the financial source of the terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, in November 2008, was also the same group that financed Kwan’s group of hackers in Manila.

After Zamir’s arrest in 2007, a Saudi national took the helm of the operation of the group, which also maintained its link with the group of Filipino hackers based in Manila, the CIDG said.

CIDG chief Police Director Samuel D Pagdilao Jr.  said the arrest of the suspects should serve as a “wake up call” for lawmakers to expedite the passage of the Cyber Crime Prevention Bill now pending in Congress.

Pagdilao earlier announced plans to revive the CIDG-based Government Computer Security and Incident Response Team (GCSIRT) to counter vicious attacks of hackers on government websites.

He said that from year 2003 to present, the CIDG has recorded some 1,340 attacks in the form of website defacement against 81 government agencies and that the PNP website was not spared from falling prey on the vicious hackers.

Other than the PNP website that has endured 15 incidents of website defacements since 2003, other agencies that also registered with the highest incident of hacking were the websites of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) that suffered 73 incidents of website defacements, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) that was hacked 36 times, the Department of Health (DOH) with 17 incidents of hacking, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) with 17 attacks, and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), each with 11 incidents.

Other government websites also include the website of the House of Representatives, the Office of the Vice President, the Office of the Ombudsman Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Supreme Court.

In the past nine years, the CIDG has recorded a total of 340 incidents of website defacements on national government units and 1,038 incidents on local government agencies.