Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Smartmatic execs charged with cybercrime


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THE camp of Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Tuesday slapped criminal charges against officials of Smartmatic and IT personnel of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for an unauthorized change of script in the transparency server of the poll body on the night of the May 9 polls.

A complaint for violating the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2010 (RA 10175) was filed at the Manila Prosecutor’s Office by Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz, campaign adviser of Marcos.

Charged were Smartmatic executive Marlon Garcia; Elie Moreno, Smartmatic project director; and Neil Banigued and Mauricio Herrera, members of the Smartmatic Technical Support Team.

Also included in the case were Rouie Peñalba, Comelec IT Officer, and Nelson Herrera and Frances Mae Gonzales, Comelec employees.

Dela Cruz maintained that the change of script was a clear and deliberate violation of RA 10175 since it assailed the “confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems,” including the “illegal access of any part of a computer system without right.”
He said the replacement of the script was a “security breach.”

The complainant noted that the interference in the system to correct the typographical error (from “?” to “Ñ”) was not authorized and can be considered as illegal access to a computer.
“Indeed, the act of ‘tweaking’ the script of the transparency server caused widespread anxiety and concern among the nation. The lapses in the protocol have undermined the credibility and integrity of the 2016 elections,” de la Cruz said in his complaint affidavit.


“[What happened was] illegal access in a sense that they accessed the system without the permission and authority of the owner, which is the Comelec,” Jose Amor Amorado, head of Marcos’ legal team, explained in an interview.

Amorado said his camp does not buy the defense of Smartmatic and the Comelec that the change was only “cosmetic” and election results were not altered.

De la Cruz said the law prohibits interfering with “the generation, transmission of election results, data or information.”

It also bans “gaining or causing access to, using, altering and destroying computer data, program and system software, network, or any computer-related devices, facilities, hardware or equipment, whether classified or declassified.”

The penalty for violating the Cybercrime law is imprisonment of about nine years to 12 years.

The Comelec has started its own investigation of the incident and has summoned officials of Smartmatic to explain why the script was changed without the permission of the commission.

Comelec chief Andres Bautista said on Monday that the initial results of the probe will be known within the week.

A number of IT experts have asserted that the introduction of a new script also changed the hash code of the packet data.



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