Comelec allays fears of cheating using signal jammers

By Dharel Placido, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Feb 04 2013 10:22 AM | Updated as of Feb 05 2013 06:50 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes on Monday dismissed concerns that signal jamming devices may disrupt the upcoming May elections.

The issue was raised after some precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines failed to transmit data during the mock elections held on Saturday.

"Ang aming aral diyan, hindi po effective iyan nang malayo dun sa voting center, malapit sa PCOS. Para mo i-jam yan, kailangan medyo malapit-lapit ka sa voting center. Ibig sabihin, maglalagay ka ng napakaraming jamming device all over the country to affect the elections," Brillantes told dzMM.

"Sa local naman, makikita mo naman iyan. Magkaroon man ng jamming, hindi naman problema ang pag-transmit nung record. Ma-i-jam man yan, naitatakbo naman ho natin yung CF (compact flash) cards at hard copy mismo. Kung sakaling maging effective yan, iyung contigency na yan ho, medyo preparado tayo diyan. Titingnan natin kung anong mangyayari later."

Brillantes said the Comelec is in constant coordination with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and telecommunications companies to prevent signal jammers from disrupting the elections.

He also said that the Comelec will hire some 8,000 technicians who will be in charge of the PCOS machines.

How a signal jammer works

Lito Alvarez, president of Philippine Computer Emergency Response Team, explained that a signal jammer can delay the transmission of election returns to establish a “trend” in the counting of votes.

“Halimbawa, sa isang lugar, kung may pulitko na gusto niyang imanipula, magpapadala siya ng signal jammers, so ang resulta ng election ay made-delay. Kung ano yung nai-transmit na, yun ang maitatala na resulta, at yun ang pwedeng sumahin, magke-create ng impression na itong pulitikong ito, nauuna, nananalo. Kapag pumasok na yung ibang resulta, tapos biglang nabaligtad, pwedeng sabihing may dayaan,” Alvarez told dzMM.

Alvarez said manipulating the actual data is hard at this point, but the delay in transmission provides a window of opportunity for hackers to study how data are being formed and secured in a PCOS machine and stored in a CF card.

“Mahirap, pero ang posibilidad ay nandyan. Kailangan lang malaman ng mag-mamanipula ng CF card ang data format at kung paano sinecure ang datos. Kung mas mahaba ang pagkakataon ng hacker, mas malalaman niya kung paano na-secure ang data,” he said. – with dzMM and ANC