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Philippine police and FBI bust hacker ring with links to terror

By Ritika Sharma Subscribe to RSS | November 30th 2011 | Views:
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Philippine police said they arrested four people in a joint operation with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for allegedly hacking into AT&T’s phone system and diverting funds to a terrorist organization.

Philippines’ Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) said they picked up three men and a woman in raids across Manila last week, and confiscated computers and telecommunication equipment they suspected was used in the hacking. CIDG said that the arrested hackers were working for a group originally run by Muhammad Zamir, a Pakistani associated with Jemaah Islamiah, a Southeast Asian militant group with links to Al Qaeda.

In a statement, CIDG said FBI agents had uncovered a paper trail of various bank transactions that linked the hackers to a “Saudi-based cell whose activities include financing terrorist activities.” AT&T spokeswoman Jan Rasmussen said that AT&T and its network were neither targeted nor breached by the hackers.

The hackers' work:- According to the CIDG, the hackers targeted trunk-like PBX (private branch exchange) phone lines of various telecommunications companies, including AT&T, and stole money.

This money they diverted to bank accounts of the terrorists, who paid a commission to the Filipino hackers.

CIDG said that the arrested hackers were working for a group originally run by Muhammad Zamir, a Pakistani associated with Jemaah Islamiah, a Southeast Asian militant group with links to Al Qaeda. FBI requested CIDG's assistance in March after they found that AT&T had been targeted by this group of hackers, the police statement said.

The CIDG said that AT&T suffered losses of almost $2 million because of the hacking. The company acknowledged it had to pay off some unaccounted charges that showed up in bills of its customers, but did not confirm the $2 million figure.

“AT&T and its network were neither targeted nor breached by the hackers,” AT&T spokeswoman Jan Rasmussen said. “AT&T only assisted law enforcement in the investigation that led to the arrest of a group of hackers.”

Terrorist links:- CIDG said that the arrested hackers were working for a group originally run by Muhammad Zamir, a Pakistani associated with Jemaah Islamiah, a Southeast Asian militant group with links to Al Qaeda. The FBI arrested Zamir in 2007 in Italy. The hackers targeted trunk-like PBX (private branch exchange) phone lines of various telecommunications companies, including AT&T, and stole money.

Zamir's group, however, continued to be active, led by a Saudi-national who also maintained its link with the Filipino hackers, CIDG stated.

The group was later tagged by the FBI as a financial source of the terrorist attack in Mumbai, India on Nov. 26, 2008. CIDG said they picked up three men and a woman in raids across Manila last week, and confiscated computers and telecommunication equipment they suspected was used in the hacking.

CIDG also said that one of the hackers arrested Paul Michael Kwan, 29 had been arrested once before in an international crackdown launched by the FBI against “suspected terrorist cells involved in financing terrorist activities.”

Ritika Sharma - About Author:
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