Comelec boosts 2025 midterm poll system's defense vs. cyberattacks

By Ferdinand Patinio

March 27, 2024, 5:26 pm

<p>Comelec chairperson George Erwin Garcia <em>(PNA file photo by Yancy Lim)</em></p>

Comelec chairperson George Erwin Garcia (PNA file photo by Yancy Lim)

MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday said it is gearing up to further secure the automated election system (AES) to be used in next year's midterm polls against cyberattacks.

“That is what we are doing. The reason why the preparation is early. Procurement is timely. This ensures that the system is tested and all security measures are put in place. The features and the wish lists that we included in the hardware, software and transmission ensure the protection against any cyberattack,” Comelec chairperson George Erwin Garcia said in a message to reporters.

He said the poll body’s information technology (IT) is ready and urged stakeholders to be vigilant against such attacks.

“Of course the readiness of our IT personnel matters much coupled with our learnings from the past. Most important of all is the support of all stakeholders in the electoral process and the critical collaboration with the electorate. Vigilance is therefore crucial,” Garcia said.

The poll body chief's remarks came in response to the National Security Council's (NSC) warning of possible foreign interference in the forthcoming midterm elections.

NSC Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya cited the persistent attack from "foreign sources" as reported by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

For his part, Comelec spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco said the AES is not connected to telecommunications (telcos) providers during the period of voting and counting.

“May I add that in the terms of reference, specifically that of the technical specifications of the Full Automation System with Transparency Audit and Count (FASTrAC), you'll find that the automated counting machine (ACM) and our servers are standalone the whole period of voting and counting, and connected to the telcos only at the point of transmission, which is after the Close Voting and Printing of the 1st 8 Election Returns (ERs), assuring everyone that the digital results cannot be altered in any way,” he said.

Laudiangco said poll stakeholders in voting precincts can use printed ERs to verify the transmitted ERs real time at the election results website which they would put up on Election Day.

He added that "multiple data centers and servers will simultaneously receive transmissions from the ACM”.

The Comelec is set to use for the first time the FASTrAC to be provided by South Korean joint venture firm Miru Systems. (PNA)