The Mexican government is denying allegations made by a self-professed Colombian hacker who told Bloomberg that he led a cyber commando unit that helped Enrique Peña Nieto "eke out a victory” in Mexico's 2012 presidential elections. Peña Nieto won the presidency by slightly more than 3 million votes.
The Bloomberg report, titled "How to Hack an Election," was based on an interview with incarcerated Colombian hacker-for-hire Andres Sepúlveda, who claims he's done dirty internet work in eight Latin American countries over the past five years, targeting candidates and businessmen in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Panama.
Sepúlveda, who's currently serving a 10-year prison sentence in Colombia on charges of using malicious software, conspiracy to commit crime, violation of personal data and espionage, claims to have been at the center of some of the biggest hacking and election-rigging scandals in Latin America over the past decade. From hacking email lists and campaign networks, to stealing candidate strategies and manipulating social media trends, Sepúlveda "might be able to claim as much influence over the political direction of modern Latin America as anyone in the 21st century," Bloomberg gushes.
He says his biggest alleged job was helping Peña Nieto secure the Mexican presidency four years ago, according to his confession in Bloomberg.
In the article the hacker claims he was hired by a Colombian-born, Miami-based political consultant to lead a team that installed malware in the routers of Mexico’s leftist opposition candidate to tap the campaign's cellphones and computer network. The investigation alleges the hacker also gathered details of opponents’ policy speeches “as soon as a speechwriter’s fingers hit the keyboard” and “saw the opponents’ upcoming meetings and campaign schedules before their own teams did.”
According to the article, the hacker also used thousands of fake social media profiles and Twitter bots to “shape discussion around topics.” For example, the article claims that “one conversation he started stoked fear that the more López Obrador [leftist candidate] rose in the polls, the lower the peso would sink.”
“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 Bloomberg.
Sépulveda's story is largely unsubstantiated and refuted by those he identifies by name in the article. Bloomberg says it has seen screen shots, files and coding that seems to back some of his claims. But the article is ripe with caveats.
"Some of Sepúlveda’s descriptions of his actions match published accounts of events during various election campaigns, but other details couldn’t be independently verified," Bloomberg says.
In a Thursday night statement, the Mexican government denied “any relationship” with Sepúlveda and said that Peña Nieto’s victory “obeys, only and exclusively, to the free informed support from the majority of the Mexican electorate.”
Other candidates and governments—past and present—named in the story have declined to comment or denied the allegations.
You can read the full Bloomberg report here: http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-how-to-hack-an-election/