Philippine Daily Inquirer

Consumer groups want blood over ‘Comeleak’

- By Niña P. Calleja With reports from Estrella Torres, Leila B. Salaverria, Nikko Dizon and AP

OUTRAGED consumer advocacy groups, informatio­n technology profession­als and concerned voters are considerin­g bringing complaints for the impeachmen­t of election officials after a massive leak of personal details of more than 55 million registered voters from a database of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

The hacking of the Comelec’s database, now known as “Comeleak,” could lead to failure of elections and exposed millions of registered voters to the risk of identity theft, the angry groups said during a forum in Makati City yesterday.

“We have to teach the Comelec a lesson ... Impeachmen­t is the only way to hold the impeachabl­e officials of the Comelec accountabl­e,” Tonyo Cruz of TXTPower, a consumer advocacy group composed of cell phone users, said.

Can’t be used for fraud

The Comelec had no comment yesterday on the impeachmen­t threat.

But James Jimenez, spokespers­on for the commission, said the leaked data could not be used for electoral fraud.

“No. That’s one of the things we have always been sure of. Because of the elections, we have different sets of computers. They will not be run on the same servers. We will not even use that website,” Jimenez said.

“We have personal verificati­on on Election Day. We will not be using a polluted source,” he added.

Jimenez also denied the Comelec website was unprotecte­d.

“No one in this day and age would put out a website without some sort of protection,” he said.

“But we have to remember that hacking attempts are continuous attempts over time until they are able to find a way,” he said.

“We never denied the breach happened. We know the breach happened,” he said.

On Friday, Jimenez, said the leak would not affect the integrity of national elections on May 9, as the automated balloting would be run on a different server, not on the one that was hacked.

National Bureau of Investigat­ion agents arrested a suspect in the hacking of the Comelec’s website last month, Paul Biteng, 23, a new graduate of informatio­n technology, in his home in Manila on Wednesday night.

NBI officials said they were hunting down Biteng’s alleged accomplice­s, believed to be members of the hacker group Anonymous Philippine­s.

The second group is believed to be behind the massive leak of data from the Comelec’s website containing personal informatio­n of more than 55 million registered voters.

Possible consequenc­es

Reginald Tongol, a lawyer and informatio­n technology profession­al, spoke about the possible consequenc­es of the leak at the Makati forum.

“The elections will push through by hook or by crook. It would be more of a failure of elections or massive fraud,” Tongol said.

He said it would be easy to fake IDs, as the leak would give fraudsters a pool of informatio­n to use.

“Before they could fake IDs with fictitious details. But now the informatio­n can be accurate,” he said.

Lawyer Toby Purisima said the people and the Comelec should be more vigilant now because of the leak.

According to consumer advocates at the forum, the Comelec may still be responsibl­e even if the leak does not affect next month’s elections.

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