SIX people were arrested by the anti-cybercrime police for allegedly hacking the system of American telecommunication company AT&T, causing about $24-million loss from the company, a police said Thursday.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-cyber Crime Group (ACG) spokesperson Jhoanna Fabro identified the arrested suspects as Rosendo Catungal, Lani Diaz, Rommie Mondido Elmer, Liezel Feolog and Allan Villacrusis.

Three minors who were allegedly being used in the illegal activity were also arrested and turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Fabro said three teams from ACG conducted the simultaneous operation in several areas in Luzon on Wednesday.

Catungal and Diaz were arrested in Tondo, Manila; Mondido in Longos in Malabon; the Feologs in Valenzuela City; and the Villacrusis in Angono Rizal.

PNP-ACG Chief Gilbert Sosa said among the arrested individuals was the "top most recipient of payments in dollars."

Sosa said the operation stemmed from a complaint filed by Mark Zmigrodski, AT&T's Global Fraud Management Organization manager requesting and seeking for police assistance, investigation and arrest of persons involved in telephone hacking in the country.

Sosa said Zmigrodski reported that on February 2011, he started noticing "large amount of unauthorized calling activity originating from the Philippines" attempting to hack the United States (US)-based business telephone systems owned by AT&T clients, the Private Branch Exchanges or PBXs.

"He initiated an investigation and started monitoring the calling activity of the intruding numbers to find out the extent of their activities from February 2011 to present. Consequently, he was able to prove and gather evidence of the intrusions over the AT&T long distance network perpetrated by an organized ring of several persons who have conspired to hack into PBX’s and use those PBX numbers as unauthorized access devices resulting in a significant loss to AT&T and its clients," he said.

The hackers operate by making outbound calls to international toll-free numbers in the US using their land line or mobile phones, once they got through they will then dial the number of the target hacking victim.

The suspects were traced after they used their home telephone numbers for the activity.

"After dialing the targeted US telephone system, the hackers press touch tones (DTMF) on their telephone and illegally access the system in order to obtain free outbound calls," Sosa said.

"The pattern of multiple calls with hacked PBX's connected to their home phone lines provide probable cause that fraud is occurring from that residence. They then use the hacked PBX’s to dial high-cost international premium rate (revenue share) numbers," he added.

The ACG chief said the illegal activity resulted a significant loss to AT&T and their corporate customers and in its wake, leaves a trail back to the hacker’s home numbers identifying the hackers involved.

Seized from the operation were desktop computers, telephone sets, routers, assorted cellphones, assorted documents, laptops, modems, assorted digital storage, digital cameras, assorted identification cards, ATM cards, and printers.

The suspects who are presently detained at the PNP ACG are facing charges in violation to Republic Act 8484 or the Access Devices Regulation Act of 1998. (Sunnex)