AT&T hackers funded terrorist group

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Four people have been arrested in the Philippines for a scam which diverted almost $2 million from AT&T into the bank accounts of a Saudi terrorist group.

The hackers were arrested after a joint investigation by the FBI and the Philippines' Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

CIDG director, police director Samuel D Pagdilao says that the four were arrested in Manila, and computer and telecommunication equipment was confiscated.They've been named as as Macnell Gracilla, 31, Francisco Manalac, 25, and his live-in partner Regina Balura, 21, and Paul Michael Kwan, 29.

Kwan was previously arrested in 2007 by Philippine authorities over the suspected financing of terrorist activities.

The FBI says it's uncovered a paper trail of bank transactions linking the hackers to the Saudi-based terrorist cell.

The group appears to be linked to Pakistani Jemaah Islamiyah member Muhammad Zamir, who was arrested in 2007 in in Italy. Zamir’s group is also believed to be the financial backer for the terrorist attack in Mubai, India in November 2008.

After Zamir’s arrest in 2007, a Saudi national took charge of the group.

Police senior superintendent Gilbert Sosa says that Kwan and the other suspects hacked the trunk-line of several telecommunication companies, including AT&T. The money was diverted to the account of the terrorists, who paid the Filipino hackers on a commission basis via local banks.

Pagdilao is urging US legislators to speed up the passage of the Cyber Crime Prevention Bill, now pending in Congress, to make it easier to target other cyber crime terrorists who have made the country their base of operations.