InquirerCathy C. Yamsuan
MANILA, Philippines -- The National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) assured the public on Saturday that its computer system is impenetrable to hackers, following reports that an attempt had been made Thursday night to break into the poll watchdog’s system.
"We cannot prevent people trying but we can prevent people succeeding," an unperturbed Namfrel chair Edward Go told reporters.
Go made this assertion after admitting that the Internet service in its headquarters at the La Salle gym in Greenhills experienced "flickering" Thursday.
While this did not disrupt Namfrel's operations, Go said desk officers on duty at the time alerted the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company and Smart Telecommunications "to check and make sure the system was up."
Still, Go expressed confidence that it would not be easy for hackers to upset Namfrel's computers.
"Normally, you install a 'firewall' to prevent attempts to disrupt the system. But our systems provider, Synapse, provided us not just one firewall but a Great Wall with six firewalls," Go boasted at Saturday’s regular news conference.
"And if the first [line of defense] detects something, the system shuts itself down so nothing can come in and so we can still operate internally," he added.
Namfrel secretary general Eric Alvia pointed out that Namfrel has "offsite duplicates" that can recall or reproduce any information destroyed by hackers, if they succeed in breaking in.
While Namfrel has not determined the identity of the person or party that allegedly attempted to disrupt its computer system, Go appeared unfazed by the incident.
"Maybe there are malicious persons trying to test [us], trying to do harm. We cannot avoid attempts but we can ensure that we will not be hacked," he said.
Go even appeared amused when he related how "someone from Mindanao" sent "unverified information" through messages faxed several times to the Namfrel headquarters.
He said the crude attempt to alter Namfrel's tabulations was quickly noticed since it was inconsistent with previous messages sent from the same area.
Go said Namfrel's tabulation of the 2007 elections was going much faster than the one conducted in 2004.
He noted that as of Saturday, five days after the election, Namfrel had already encoded, verified and released tabulations from 25.9% of precincts nationwide.
Namfrel 2004, Go said, had tabulated results from only 17.5% of all precincts five days after the May 11 balloting.
"We have historical data to prove we are not that slow. People only get that impression because the television network counts have zoomed quickly. However, their sources are not official while our data come from election returns," the Namfrel chair explained.