Cyber attacks against Mexican financial institutions and reports of alleged election interference around the world are fueling concerns among analysts that the nation’s presidential vote on Sunday may become a target for hackers. While Mexicans will cast their vote July 1 by paper ballot, electronic systems will be used to tally and transmit the results, which the electoral authorities will then release to trusted media outlets. The slightest disruption to the voting process can sow doubt and distrust, said Ron Bushar, vice president of government solutions for cybersecurity services company Mandiant. Tensions are already high in the country given that polls show Mexicans are likely to elect a leftist for the first time in almost five decades. That candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has accused his rivals of fraud and collusion to keep him from winning in the past two presidential elections, while his opponents say that his presidency would be a disaster for Mexico’s economy. Such polarization is fertile ground for cyber criminals.
“The outcome of an election almost doesn’t matter” for hackers, Bushar said. It’s about “calling into question the legitimacy (of the process) or creating a lot of tension between the political parties.”
A warning came last December, when former U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said that there was evidence of Russian interference in Mexico’s campaign, although he didn’t elaborate on how Russia was seeking to influence the process. Russia was mentioned again this month when candidate Ricardo Anaya’s team said a website it created to publish information questioning ties between Lopez Obrador and a contractor, was shut down by “an attack”. The Anaya campaign said the hack originated in Russia.