United States authorities Arrest four Filipino hackers

PHILIPPINES and United States authorities arrested Wednesday four members of a Filipino hackers group whose operation is allegedly being financed by a Saudi Arabia-based terrorist group. Wednesday night’s operation stemmed from the complaint of AT&T, a US-based telecommunication company and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) regarding the activities of Filipino hackers who hacked the system of AT&T. The hacking activity resulted in about US$2-million in losses incurred by the company, said Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (DILG) Director Samuel Pagdilao Jr. Pagdilao said operatives from the CIDG’s Anti-Transnational and Cyber Crime Division (ATCCD) and FBI agents struck at several target areas in Metro Manila, resulting in the arrest of four suspects. Several computer and telecommunication equipment believed to be used by the suspects in their hacking activities were recovered. ATCCD chief Gilbert Sosa identified the arrested suspects as Macnell Gracilla, 31, of Carmen Rosales, Pangasinan and resident of Unit 5, Montiville Place, Greenville Subdivision, Sauyo, Quezon City; Francisco Manalac, 25, and his live-in partner Regina Balura, 21, both of 89 Sampaguita Extension, East Bagong Barrio, Calooocan City; and Paul Michael Kwan, 29, of 21 Hebrew St., West Bagong Barrio, Caloocan City. Sosa said that prior to Wednesday’s arrest of Kwan, the suspect has been arrested in 2007 by Philippine authorities following the international crackdown launched by the FBI against suspected terrorist cells involved in financing terrorist activities. Sosa said FBI agents who have been investigating incessant hacking of telecommunication companies in the US and in the country since 1999 have uncovered paper trail of various bank transactions linking the local hackers to the Saudi-based cell whose activities include financing terrorist activities. Sosa said that in 2007, FBI operatives arrested Pakistani Jemaah Islamiyah member Muhammad Zamir in Italy. Zamir’s group, who was later tagged by the FBI to be the financial source of the terrorist attack in Mubai, India in November 26, 2008, is also the same group that paid Kwan’s group of hackers in Manila. Sosa said Kwan and the other hackers in Manila were being used by the Zamir’s terrorists group to hack the trunk-line of different telecommunication companies including the AT&T. Revenues derived from the hacking activities of the Filipino-based hackers were diverted to the account of the terrorists, who paid the Filipino hackers on a commission basis via local banks. After Zamir’s arrest in 2007, a Saudi-national took helm of the operation of the group, who also maintained its link with the group of Filipino hackers based in Manila. On March 2011, FBI authorities requested the CIDG-ATCCD assistance after they found out that the group has targeted the AT&T in the US and that the same group of Filipino hackers is involved. Pagdilao said the recent arrest of Filipino hackers tied to a group involved in financing terrorist activities should serve as a wake-up call to legislators to speed-up the passage of the Cyber Crime Prevention Bill now pending in Congress in order to address proactively the threat of cyber crime terrorists who have made the country their base of operations. (VR/Sunnex)

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