Policemen and agents of the US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested four hackers believed to be linked with the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) in Quezon City and Calooocan City on Wednesday night, police said Thursday.

Director Samuel Pagdilao, PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief, said members of the CIDG Anti-Transnational and Cyber Crime Division (ATCCD) and FBI agents struck several “target areas” following a complaint by US-based telecommunication company AT&T.

Arrested were Macnell Gracilla, 31, a native of Pangasinan and resident of Unit 5, Montiville Place, Greenville Subdivision, Sauyo, Quezon City; Francisco Manalac, 25, and his live-in partner Regina Balura, 21, both of # 89 Sampaguita Extension, East Bagong Barrio, Calooocan City; and Paul Michael Kwan, 29, of # 21 Hebrew St., West Bagong Barrio, Caloocan City.

Confiscated from the four were computers and telecommunication equipment believed to be used in their hacking activities, Pagdilao said in a statement.

Senior Superintendent Gilbert Sosa, head of the CIDG-ATCCD, said the FBI agents uncovered a paper trail of bank transactions linking the local hackers to a Saudi-based terror cell whose activities include financing terrorist activities.

The cell, formerly led by Pakistani JI member Muhammad Zamir, allegedly uses Manila-based hackers to hack the trunk line or PBX of different telcos, including AT&T.

Revenues derived from the hacking activities were diverted to the account of the terrorists, who paid the Filipino hackers on a commission basis via local banks, Sosa said.

Zamir’s group, who was later tagged by the FBI to be the financial source of the terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, on November 26, 2008, is also the same group that paid Kwan’s group of hackers in Manila, according to the police official.

Kwan was arrested along with Nancy Gomez and Mahmoud Nusier in 2008, when the FBI was conducting an international “crackdown” against cells financing terrorist activities, but the three were released on bail.

After FBI operatives and Italian police arrested Zamir in Italy in June 2009, a Saudi-national took over the group, which maintained its link with the Manila-based hackers, Sosa said.

Meanwhile, Pagdilao said the latest arrest of Filipino hackers tied to a group involved in financing terrorist activities should prompt legislators to speed-up the passage of the Cyber Crime Prevention Bill. (John Roson)

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