Opposition senators claim e-mail hacking

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Senator Bam Aquino
Senator Paolo Benigno 'Bam' Aquino — SENATE PRIB

MINORITY SENATORS in a statement on Thursday, Oct. 12, claimed there have been “several hacking incidents concerning the e-mail addresses of our staff from the offices of Senators (Francis N.) Kiko Pangilinan and (Paolo Benigno A.) Bam Aquino, and just now the official e-mail addresses for releasing media statements of Senator Pangilinan and the Liberal Party.”

“The nature of the breach in all instances is the same: Unauthorized users sent e-mails using the staff and party addresses,” the statement also said.

“These incidents seem to form part of a pattern to pin the political opposition for imaginary destabilization attempts. These are cause for concern as Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre spearheaded the creation of the Citizen National Guard, which says that dissent is destabilization,” the statement also added.

The said launching of the Citizen National Guard drew controversy for its openly categorizing “enemies of the state” including the “seditious political opposition” or the “Yellowtards,” after the color associated with former president Benigno S.C. Aquino III’s circle.

“Let us be clear. There is no destabilization plot. Dissent is not destabilization. Dissent is indispensable in a democracy,” the minority senators said in their statement.

The senators also held a press conference on Thursday where Senator Aquino said the compromised e-mails were first discovered on March 21 and the latest on Oct. 11, some containing subjects such as “Leaked Media Plan to Destroy PRRD” and “The investigation on DDS.”

“Kapag kiniklik po ito hindi magbubukas ’yung file (When you click it, the file would not open). But ang tingin po namin (But we think) this is already a virus or this is a program to get all the information on whatever device you are using. I think the term here is ‘phishing.’ This is a phishing attempt,” Mr. Aquino said.

The senator said he hopes the “administration is not behind this.”

President Rodrigo R. Duterte in a speech on Thursday afternoon said in part that there are “threats that could come our way,” adding, with regards to the “Yellow” and “Reds”:

“I would be happy really if they would start to merge into one command. Itong mga Komunista at itong Liberal (These Communists and Liberals)….We can focus on all of you.

This is no threat. I said it is my mandated duty to keep this country safe and sound. And the only way I can do it is I have to build a strong army and police.”

Allan S. Cabanlong, assistant secretary at the DITC and executive director of cybercrime investigation and coordination center, said he had already conducted a physical inspection of the hardware used by Mr. Aquino’s staff last September.

“I advised them to check their password initially,” he said in a phone interview.

Mr. Cabanlong added that the staff member whose e-mail was compromised may have been a victim of e-mail spoofing. According to him, e-mail spoofing is when an e-mail is “copied” so a message can be sent through a similar e-mail address.

He also advised the staff to sweep the Wi-Fi network to be sure no one is accessing the same network. Mr. Cabanlong also advised Mr. Aquino’s staff to change their password every 30 to 45 days.

Mr. Cabanlong said he would form a task force that would convene by next week to investigate if it is e-mail spoofing or hacking.