Hacker Rigs Elections In 9 Countries

Apr 2, 2016

A highly sophisticated hacker confessed he helped rig election results in nine Latin American countries throughout his career.

Andres Sepulveda reported his long hist of crimes to Bloomberg Business in hopes of alleviating his jail sentence in Columbia - one of the countries the hacker operated in. Sepulveda was active in hacking elections in favor of right-wing political parties in Latin America for almost eight years.

According to the Bloomberg article, Sepulveda may very well have been the most influential figure in Latin American politics.

"My job was to do actions of dirty war and psychological operations, black propaganda, rumors—the whole dark side of politics that nobody knows exists but everyone can see," he told reporters.

Sepulveda reportedly had several high-profile clients. The Mexican government as well as several other conservative parties in South America are denying his claims.

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Sepúlveda's career began in 2005, and his first jobs were small—mostly defacing campaign websites and breaking into opponents' donor databases. Within a few years he was assembling teams that spied, stole, and smeared on behalf of presidential campaigns across Latin America. He wasn't cheap, but his services were extensive.

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Sepúlveda claims he was given a $600,000 war chest to ensure victory, and assembled a team of hackers to make it happen. The team, he says, installed router malware at the headquarters of PRI's main opponents. and used that to tap into phones and computers in the buildings.

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But the jobs grew in budget and scope over the years. In the lead-up to Mexico's 2012 presidential election, Sepulveda hacked, spied, and manipulated social media for President Enrique Peña Nieto's campaign with a US$600,000 budget as the PRI aimed to regain power after losing it in 2000 for the first time in over 70 years.

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Many of the people named as clients in the article have issued outright denials. For his part Sepúlveda says he wanted to go public as he was living under the threat of death, and in the hope that he would win a lighter sentence on review.

The hacker says his political career began in 2005 with small jobs, but his business grew quickly as he helped presidential campaigns in Columbia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. His work involved using his technical expertise to help conservative politicians spy on left-wing rivals. This included making fake social media profiles of gay men supporting conservative Catholic candidates, making it seem like candidates were more popular than they actually were.

"When I realized that people believe what the Internet says more than reality, I discovered that I had the power to make people believe almost anything," Sepulveda said.

His accomplishments included helping Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party return to power in 2012 with the successful campaign of presidential candidate Peña Nieto. Sepulveda was earning an average of $12,000 per month, sometimes more. He says he was given a $600,000 advance for the 2012 election in Mexico, and assembled a team of hackers to help him.

The hacker said he enjoyed his job because it allowed him to travel, paid well, and do as he pleased. He hopes his confession will lighten his 10-year sentence.

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