2022 Philippine Elections

Facebook page alleging Smartmatic breach, fraud becomes inaccessible

Gelo Gonzales
Facebook page alleging Smartmatic breach, fraud becomes inaccessible

A screenshot of the Facebook page XSOX Group shows the page being inaccessible

Another page of the same name has resurfaced and has continued posting screenshots of an alleged Smartmatic breach

MANILA, Philippines – The Facebook page called XSOX Group (www.facebook.com/xsoxgroup), which has been posting screenshots and videos alleging electoral fraud by automated elections system provider Smartmatic and the COMELEC, is inaccessible as early as Wednesday, March 23. 

It is unclear specifically what day or time the page went down, but another page also called XSOX Group appeared in the early morning of Wednesday, March 23, saying its original page had been taken down. 

In a statement sent to Rappler on March 21, Smartmatic had called the group “dubious” and “filled with fake information.” 

“But what is striking about this whole episode is that, apparently, the source of all this uproar is a Facebook page from a group known as ‘XSOX’ filled with fake information. This criminal group hidden behind the Facebook page has claimed in several instances that they had allegedly hacked the DOST, Red Cross, Rappler, NAPOCOR, COMELEC, Smartmatic, and others. We humbly believe that giving credence to anonymous groups such as this without proper verification may have the same effect as believing in fake news, as this is clearly a dubious source,” Smartmatic said. 

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senate electoral reforms panel chairperson Imee Marcos had claimed that Smartmatic’s system has been compromised, a conclusion that was supposedly established during a closed-door session organized by the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) and attended by top poll officials on Thursday, March 17.

COMELEC and Smartmatic asserted there was no hacking.

CNN Philippines, on the same day, quoted Marcos citing the XSOS group, pointing also to their presence on Facebook where she said an array of information was laid out:

Nasa Facebook eh, makikita ninyo sa isang XSOS na nasa Facebook, nandun nakalatag kung ano-anong impormasyon.” 

May mga password, user word. Sabi nila, bulok na at non-usable but nevertheless, the wealth of detail and the depth of knowledge is a little bit alarming.” 

(It’s on Facebook, you can see it on XSOX on Facebook. An array of information is laid out there. There are passwords. They said it’s old and non-usable but, nevertheless, the wealth of detail and depth of knowledge is a little bit alarming.)

Imee Marcos is the sibling of 2022 presidential aspirant and dictator’s son Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and has been pushing for a return to a manual counting of votes, amid the belief that her brother was the victim of automated elections cheating when he ran for vice president in 2016. Marcos Jr. has lost the case in the Supreme Court.

The XSOX Facebook page first appeared in January 2022, a number of days after a story by Manila Bulletin about the COMELEC servers allegedly being hacked came out on January 10. Investigations by various government bodies have since been conducted, with COMELEC and Smartmatic largely dismissing the claims

Smartmatic had said that there was no hacking, but rather a “former employee” stealing what the company called “non-sensitive” data, and attempting to blackmail them.

“Please note, too, that Smartmatic’s system wasn’t hacked. What the former employee did is wrongdoing completely unrelated to Philippine elections and doesn’t deserve to be called hacking. He downloaded non-sensitive, day-to-day operational materials from a repository readily available to all Smartmatic staff. He then shared it with individuals outside the company, who have attempted to blackmail Smartmatic for money,” Smartmatic said. 

Sotto had explained, “A Smartmatic employee put out their laptop, and allowed the contents to be copied by a certain group.” It may not be technically hacking, said Imee Marcos, but “we feel it compromises the processes and operations of Smartmatic in very serious ways.”

Responding to Smartmatic’s statement saying it wasn’t hacked, the page claimed (screenshot shown below) that it hadn’t released “crucial data” yet as currently they are “just moving pawns” and that “solid proofs and evidence are on the way.” Some of the things that the page has published include screenshots of what appeared to be travel itineraries, documentation of various tests, a changelog file (a text log used to record changes being made to a software), and cryptic videos showing lists of files and alleged access to government portals, to name some. Followers of the page would also comment, from time to time, asking for definitive pieces of fraud evidence before the elections.

We have reached out to Facebook Philippines representatives on Thursday, March 24 to ask whether the page was taken down by the company. – Rappler.com

Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.