Immigration hackers had help from those in the know

PUTRAJAYA: The syndicate that hacked into the Immigration’s computer systems had the help of those who knew how to go about doing it without raising alarm by roping in those who had easy access to the data centre, revealed sources.

The syndicate did not only manage to “get in touch” with the people who supplied the systems to the department but also convinced unethical Immigration officers to be in cahoots with them.

In a fresh round of arrests on Thursday against individuals believed to be involved in the syndicate’s activities, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission arrested six suspects – two from Immigration and four employees of the company that supplies the computer systems to the department.

Sources with knowledge of the case said that the suspects were Grade KP19 officers (monthly salary between RM1,360 and about RM4,000) aged 34 and 42.

The officer who was arrested at the department’s headquarters here is from the overseas affairs and development division while the suspect arrested from Pahang is from the development division.

“Investigators are determining the roles these two suspects played in the hacking.

“But they believe that the two had received payments as rewards for helping the syndicate to hack into the Immigration system, ” said a source.

The two suspects have been remanded until April 15.

The four employees of the computer systems supply company were arrested at several locations around Kuala Lumpur during a round-up.

Sources said the suspects aged between 35 and 39 were believed to be the ones responsible for installing devices and software to enable the Malaysian Immigration System (MyIMMs) to be hacked. They were released after being held for questioning.

Graft investigators have seized several IT equipment and desktops from the Immigration Department as well as laptops and external drives belonging to the four company workers.

Meanwhile, the Immigration Department has initiated several measures to improve its computer systems, including improving the management of officers’ computer identification following findings of the 2018 Auditor-General’s report.

“We made improvements to the existing system while waiting for the new system, the National Integrated Immigration System (NIISe) to take over.

Old servers, computers and mainframes of the system are in the process of being upgraded and this is a three-year project which is expected to be completed in 2023, ” Immigration director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud told The Star.

Khairul Dzaimee said for security purposes, officers are required to shut down their desktops completely after work and permission from the IT division is required to work during weekends or after-working hours.

“We have also installed CCTV in our data centre room and enhanced security there, ” he said.

According to the 2018 Auditor-General’s report which was released in July 2019, there were fraudulent approvals for foreign workers under MyIMMs.

Investigations into findings of the report led authorities to a shocking discovery of a syndicate which had been hacking into the Immigration system to sell temporary employment visit passes (PLKS) to thousands of foreign workers, causing massive losses to the government.

On Monday, a joint operation between Immigration and the MACC codenamed Ops Hack crippled the syndicate that had been operating since 2017 where five suspects, including its mastermind and a former Immigration officer, were arrested.

A total of RM25.5mil worth of properties, luxury cars, watches and cash had been seized and 147 accounts belonging to 30 people and 11 companies totalling RM9.9mil frozen, pending ongoing investigations.

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