Four hackers were arrested by a combination of the Philippines Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and the Federal Bureau of Investigation last Wednesday.
With the permission of search warrants, raids were conducted on several areas in metropolitan Manila. Filipino police arrested the suspects and confiscated various kinds of equipment, including the computer and telecommunication technology that allegedly hacked the systems.
Macnell Gracilla, 31, Francisco Manalac, 25, Paul Michael Kwan, 29, and Regina Balura, 21, operated as a hacker group whose purpose was to infiltrate telecommunication companies like AT&T to steal money. Somehow, the foursome was able to tap into a variety of United States-based communication companies’ systems and divert funds to other accounts.
What is more alarming is that one of the accounts funds were funneled into belongs to a Saudi terrorist cell, which in turn funded the hackers’ criminal activities. The individual loss to AT&T is reported to be over $2 million, according to The New York Times.
The joining of FBI and CIDG forces happened in March, when American intel linked the Saudi terrorist cell to Muhammad Zamir, an insurgent known for his involvement in the 2008 Mumbai, India attacks.
The FBI arrested Zamir in 2007, and ever since then, another Saudi has run the cell. Zamir’s group was known to be funding criminal activity, and the hackers’ thievery was one of them.
The FBI had evidence going back even further, however, to 1999. Since then, the Bureau has uncovered many paper trails showing bank transactions linking the hackers and the Saudi terrorist group. The rampant attempts to gain access to American telecommunication companies are only one of a myriad of interests of the terrorist group.
According to AT&T, the company’s “network [was] neither targeted nor breached by the hackers,” said NYT. Still, AT&T reimbursed business customers whose numbers were hacked.