In the March 31 Bloomberg article “How to Hack an Election” by Jordan Robertson, Michael Riley, and Andrew Willis, we get the story of Andrés Sepúlveda, a Columbian hacker with a political agenda. Sepúlveda is in the custody of the Columbian government, where he is in constant danger from the many political candidates and insiders he has worked with, and is now telling the story of, in an attempt to earn a lighter sentence. He names the candidates and their representatives he has worked with to hack elections for various South American offices in exhaustive detail.
Because of how well connected our society is, we depend on the internet for accurate information and sensitive communications. Sepúlveda’s revelations about the way that social media is routinely manipulated and private communications intercepted to hack an election shows how vulnerable we are to motivated hackers. These vulnerabilities aren’t limited to our personal data and work being available to the highest bidder, but also as we are impacted by political candidates who are willing to go to any length in their campaigns to take office.
“Last year, based on anonymous sources, the Colombian media reported that Rendon [a contemporary of Sepúlveda’s] was working for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Rendón calls the reports untrue. The campaign did approach him, he says, but he turned them down because he dislikes Trump. ‘To my knowledge we are not familiar with this individual,’ says Trump’s spokeswoman, Hope Hicks. ‘I have never heard of him, and the same goes for other senior staff members.’ But Rendón says he’s in talks with another leading U.S. presidential campaign—he wouldn’t say which—to begin working for it once the primaries wrap up and the general election begins.”
Election hacking isn’t just a South American problem.