Colombian government and military officials say the government is investigating tens of thousands of cyberattacks on the country’s voter registration systems, and traced the incidents to Russia’s key allies in the region. More than 50,000 attacks on the web platform of Colombia’s national voter registry were detected during the run-up to March 11 parliamentary elections, according to Defense Minister Luis Villegas, who said some of the hacks were staged from Venezuela, which has become a proxy for Russia. While Villegas did not specifically mention Russia at a March 8 press conference in which he denounced the ongoing incidents, he said three of the hacks — which each triggered repeated robotic attacks — were linked to internet addresses in Colombia, while one was identified as coming from Venezuela. Colonel Jose Marulanda, a Colombian intelligence analyst, said Russia was seeking a foothold in the region.
“Russia is increasingly using Venezuela as a base for covert operations in its growing rivalry with the U.S. for international influence that is starting to affect Latin America to a point not seen since the Cold War,” said Marulanda, who has held senior intelligence posts in the Colombian army and been a security director for major international companies.
Russia has sold billions of dollars’ worth of sophisticated armaments to Venezuela, which has granted major oil concessions to Russian companies. Russian loans are sustaining Venezuela from a debt default that would otherwise lead to its total economic collapse.
Colombia could be the latest target in a string of Russian attempts to interfere with elections around the world through electronic hacking. Such attempts have been detected in the U.S. and several EU countries, according to American and European security agencies, which have traced thousands of robot accounts used in the operations to troll farms in Russia and Venezuela