Costa Rica launches investigation after reports hackers ‘rigged’ 2014 election

Campaign wasn't full of badness like the others, claims hacker

Costa Rica is to investigate whether hackers interfered with its 2014 elections.

The investigation comes days after jailed hacker Andres Sepulveda claimed he had used black propaganda and other tactics in order to influence many electoral contests across Latin America over a run of eight years for 2005 until 2013. Sepulveda told Bloomberg News that he hacked emails, phones and websites in order to gather intelligence in order to give his right wing clients an illicit advantage in nine Latin American countries.

Sepulveda ran a team of hackers that stole campaign strategies, installed spyware in opposition offices, manipulated sentiment by fabricating false waves of enthusiasm and derision on social media, and launched spam and robo-calling campaigns designed to annoy potential supporters of his political clients' opposition.

The Costa Rican Supreme Court of Elections authorised an investigation into the country's presidential contest of 2014 following a complaint by the leftist Broad Front group prompted by Sepulveda’s revelations, teleSUR reports.

Sepulveda admitted running underhanded campaigns in Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Nicaragua while maintaining he stuck to a "more normal" campaign in Costa Rica.

Leftists politicians in Costa Rica want investigators to look into "irregularities in the electoral process” as well as whether executives from the right-wing National Liberation Party hired Sepulveda (by his own account a high-tech, internet-savvy G Gordon Liddy1) in order to rig the election.

One of Sepulveda’s favoured tactics was the use of banks of sock puppet social media accounts to promote tweets and memes ridiculing left-wing candidates. Anti Broad Front memes were reportedly abundant during the 2014 elections. Some of the memes sought to portray the Broad Front as sympathetic to Columbia’s notorious FARC guerrillas. The social media posts alleged that the left-wing candidates had ties to Marxist guerrillas in Colombia and denied FRAC’s classification as terrorists. Supposed plans to nationalise industries were also highlighted.

The aggressive plan is blamed, by the leftists at least, for declining support for Jose Maria Villalta Florez-Estrada, the FA's candidate, who finished third, with 17 per cent of the vote.

Sepulveda was jailed for 10 years last year following his conviction on charges including use of malicious software, conspiracy to commit crime, violation of personal data and espionage. He is talking to the media after years of operating in the shadows in an apparent bid to portray himself as a reformed person. The offences related to spying on the Colombian government’s peace talks with Marxist rebels, as previously reported. ®

Bootnote

1Liddy was a leader of Nixon’s so-called “White House Plumbers”, convicted of burglary and illegal wiretapping for his role in the Watergate scandal.


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