MANILA, Philippines >> A Philippine elections database leak, which could have exposed personal details of all 55 million registered voters, will not undermine the May 9 national elections, officials said Friday, in the latest hacking scandal to hit the Southeast Asian nation.
Government agents late Wednesday arrested a 23-year-old suspect, a new graduate of information technology, in his home in Manila. Officials said they are hunting down his alleged accomplices.
Commission on Elections spokesman James Jimenez said the automated elections will be run on a different server, not on the one that was hacked, and that experts say the polls are unlikely to be compromised.
The leaked data include voters’ names, birthdays, home addresses, email, parents’ full names and in some cases passport details and text markers of fingerprints.
A hacker group defaced the website of the Commission on Election last month, and a second hacker group posted the entire database online, with mirror links where the data could also be downloaded, according to a research posted April 6 by Internet security company Trend Micro.
The Tokyo-based company first reported on the breach on its website.
The commission said it had shut down its website.
Presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma condemned the cyberattack and said that government agencies were closely coordinating with the commission to further strengthen its security protocols. He vowed to prosecute the perpetrators.
“Although verifications that have been made thus far have shown that the integrity of the automated election system has not been affected by the latest cyberattack, we share the public’s concern on the ill-effects of this act,” he said.
Trend Micro said that with the breach, “every registered voter in the Philippines is now susceptible to fraud and other risks.”
“With 55 million registered voters in the Philippines, this leak may turn out as one of the biggest government-related data breaches in history,” it said. The data dumps include 15.8 million records of fingerprints, it added.
There are 54.3 million registered voters in the country and 1.3 million overseas.
Jimenez said the leaked data that were uploaded online were not fingerprints but text markers that cannot recreate the fingerprints.
The latest hacking scandal comes amid an investigation into the cyber theft of $101 million from the Bangladesh central bank’s account in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the money’s transfer to the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
The Philippine Senate inquiry has shown that $81 million was diverted to bank accounts created with fictitious names at a branch of a Philippine bank, consolidated and then shifted to Philippine casinos and junket operators through a local remittance company.