For almost eight years, a sophisticated Colombian hacker claims to have helped conservative political candidates win elections across nine Latin America countries—Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela—Jordan Robertson, Michael Riley, and Andrew Willis reported for Bloomberg Businessweek in March 2016.
Andrés Sepúlveda told Bloomberg Businessweek, “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.” While noting that many of Sepúlveda’s efforts were unsuccessful, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that he was successful enough to be able to claim “as much influence over the political direction of modern Latin America as anyone in the 21st century.” For instance, Sepúlveda said that he and other hackers installed malware to monitor opponents of Enrique Peña Nieto in support of his successful 2012 election campaign to become president of Mexico.
Sepúlveda told Bloomberg how he started in 2005 with small jobs but eventually helped hack campaign networks and manipulate public opinion during presidential campaigns across Latin America.
Sepúlveda is now serving ten years in jail in Colombia. Bloomberg noted that he told his story in hopes of convincing “the public that he’s rehabilitated” and to “gather support for a reduced sentence.” Other independent media, including the UK’s Guardian, teleSUR, and VICE News picked up the Bloomberg Businessweek report, but it has not been well covered in the corporate press.
Jordan Robertson, Michael Riley, and Andrew Willis, “How to Hack an Election,” Bloomberg Businessweek, March 31, 2016, https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-how-to-hack-an-election/.
Jonathon Watts and David Agren, “Hacker Claims He Helped Enrique Peña Nieto Win Mexican Presidential Election,” Guardian, April 1, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/31/mexico-presidential-election-enrique-pena-nieto-hacking.
“This Hacker Rigged Elections in Nine Latin American Countries,” teleSUR English, April 1, 2016, http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/This-Hacker-Rigged-Elections-in-9-Latin-American-Countries-20160331-0030.html
Student Researcher: Jessica Mena Flores (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Emily Joy Clark (Sonoma State University)