A digital dark arts campaign by mercenary hackers helped Enrique Peña Nieto win Mexico’s 2012 presidential election, according to an imprisoned Colombian hacker who says he was involved. Andrés Sepúlveda, an online campaign strategist, claimed he had also helped to manipulate elections in nine countries across Latin America by stealing data, installing malware and creating fake waves of enthusiasm and derision on social media. In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, the Colombian – who is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence – boasted of his ability to hack into campaign networks and manipulate opinion. “My job was to do actions of dirty war and psychological operations, black propaganda, rumours – the whole dark side of politics that nobody knows exists but everyone can see,” the 31-year-old told Bloomberg.
Although he was well paid for his work, he said his primary motive was political. He supported right and centre-right candidates against what he called “dictatorships and socialists governments”.
In Mexico, however, he reportedly had a $600,000 budget to undermine the campaigns of Peña Nieto’s two main opponents on either side of the political spectrum: the ruling National Action party’s Josefina Vázquez Mota and the Democratic Revolution party’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
His team are said to have installed malware at the headquarters of the two candidates, which let them monitor phones and computers. According to the report, Sepúlveda saw speech drafts, meetings plans and campaign schedules as they were typed into the keyboard.