In this day and age, everything lies at the mercy of technology. Even our democratic processes. In a proactively titled new piece in Bloomberg, “How to Hack an Election,” hacker extraordinaire Andrés Sepúlveda tells a story of how he allegedly rigged elections throughout Central and South America for nearly ten years. The computer whiz currently sits behind bars as part of a 10-year prison sentence, the result of his involvement in Colombia’s 2014 election hacking scandal. But according to this latest report, 2014 was just the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, in nearly 5,000 words, Bloomberg details the extent to which the Latin American political system has been shaped by one man, and several computers.
Branded most kindly as an “online campaign strategist,” Sepúlveda tells Bloomberg. “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.” The 31-year-old started his nefarious career back in 2005, initially completing much smaller, less substantial tasks. He would deface campaign websites, break into opponents’ donor bases — you know, your more run-of-the-mill illegal online activity.
But as his expertise and reputation grew, so too did the size of his jobs. He began putting together entire teams who ran digital smearing, hacking, and other unsavory campaigns. And then, in 2012, operating under a $600,000 budget, Sepúlveda says that the zenith of his career came with the Enrique Peña Nieto election in Mexico. “He led a team of hackers that stole campaign strategies, manipulated social media to create false waves of enthusiasm and derision, and installed spyware in opposition offices, all to help Peña Nieto, a right-of-center candidate, eke out a victory,” Bloomberg reports.
On Thursday evening, Nieto’s office adamantly denied any involvement with the hacker, stating, “We reject any relationship between the 2012 presidential campaign team and Andrés Sepúlveda.” And of course, Sepúlveda says he’s destroyed all the evidence, drilling holes in flash drives, hard drives, cell phones, and anything else even remotely incriminating.
Still, Bloomberg has managed to substantiate certain aspects of Sepúlveda’s claims, unearthing what may be one of the most monumental political schemes in recent history. Truly, in this day and age, anything is possible. And whether we should thank or curse technology is still up for debate.