4 'hackers' linked to JI fall

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MANILA, Philippines - Four alleged hackers, whose operation is reportedly financed by the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terror group, were arrested Wednesday in simultaneous raids conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Director Samuel Pagdilao Jr. said yesterday the raids stemmed from complaints of US telecommunications firm AT&T and the FBI after hackers broke into AT&T’s systems and cost the firm $2 million.

Members of the CIDG’s Anti-Transnational and Cyber Crime Division (ATCCD) and FBI agents seized computers and telecommunications equipment from suspects Macnell Gracilla, 31, of Montiville Place in Sauyo, Quezon City; Francisco Mañalac, 25, and partner Regina Balura, 21, both of East Bagong Barrio, Caloocan City; and Paul Michael Kwan, 29, of West Bagong Barrio, Caloocan City.
ATCCD chief Senior Superintendent Gilbert Sosa said Philippine authorities arrested Kwan in 2007 after the FBI launched an international crackdown on suspected cells involved in financing terrorist activities.
He said FBI agents investigating the hacking of telecommunication firms in the US since 1999 have uncovered a trail of bank transactions linking the four suspects to a Saudi Arabia-based cell.
In 2007, FBI agents arrested Pakistani Muhammad Zamir in Italy. Zamir’s group – later tagged by the FBI as the financier of the Nov. 26, 2008 terror attack in Mumbai, India – is reportedly the same group that paid Kwan and the other alleged hackers, according to the ATCCD chief.
Sosa said Kwan and the other suspects were purportedly being used by Zamir’s group to hack the PBX telephone systems of different telecommunication firms.
Revenue derived from the hacking done by the Filipino suspects were diverted to the accounts of the terror cell, who then paid the suspects on a commission basis through local banks, he said.
After Zamir’s arrest in 2007, a Saudi national took over the helm of the operation of the group, who also maintained its link with the suspects in Metro Manila.
Last March, FBI officials asked the CIDG-ATCCD for assistance after they found out the group targeted AT&T and the same Filipino suspects are involved. - By Non Alquitran (Philstar News Service, www.philstar.com)

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