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Cómo hackear una elección

Andrés Sepúlveda afirma haber alterado campañas electorales durante ocho años dentro de Latinoamérica.

PARTE 1

Justo antes de la medianoche Enrique Peña Nieto anunció su victoria como el nuevo presidente electo de México. Peña Nieto era abogado y millonario, proveniente de una familia de alcaldes y gobernadores. Su esposa era actriz de telenovelas. Lucía radiante mientras era cubierto de confeti rojo, verde y blanco en la sede central del Partido Revolucionario Institucional, o PRI, el cual había gobernado por más de 70 años antes de ser destronado en el 2000. Al devolver el poder al PRI en aquella noche de julio de 2012 Peña Nieto prometió disminuir la violencia ligada al narcotráfico, luchar contra la corrupción y dar inicio a una era más transparente en la política mexicana.

A dos mil millas de distancia (3.200 kilómetros), en un departamento en el lujoso barrio de Chicó Navarra en Bogotá, Andrés Sepúlveda estaba sentado frente a seis pantallas de computadores. Sepúlveda es colombiano, de constitución robusta, con cabeza rapada, perilla y un tatuaje de un código QR con una clave de cifrado en la parte de atrás de su cabeza. En su nuca están escritas las palabras “
” y “”, una encima de la otra, en una oscura alusión a la codificación. Sepúlveda observaba una transmisión en directo de la celebración de la victoria de Peña Nieto, a la espera de un comunicado oficial sobre los resultados.

Cuando Peña Nieto ganó Sepúlveda comenzó a destruir evidencia. Perforó agujeros en memorias USB, discos duros y teléfonos móviles, calcinó sus circuitos en un microondas y luego los hizo pedazos con un martillo. Trituró documentos y los tiró por el excusado, junto con borrar servidores alquilados de forma anónima en Rusia y Ucrania mediante el uso de Bitcoins. Desbarataba la historia secreta de una de las campañas más sucias de Latinoamérica en los últimos años.

Sepúlveda, de 31 años, dice haber viajado durante ocho años a través del continente manipulando las principales campañas políticas. Con un presupuesto de US$600.000, el trabajo realizado para la campaña de Peña Nieto fue por lejos el más complejo. Encabezó un equipo de seis hackers que robaron estrategias de campaña, manipularon redes sociales para crear falsos sentimientos de entusiasmo y escarnio e instaló spyware en sedes de campaña de la oposición, todo con el fin de ayudar a Peña Nieto, candidato de centro derecha, a obtener una victoria. En aquella noche de julio, destapó botella tras botella de cerveza Colón Negra a modo de celebración. Como de costumbre en una noche de elecciones, estaba solo.

La carrera de Sepúlveda comenzó en 2005, y sus primeros fueron trabajos fueron menores - consistían principalmente en modificar sitios web de campañas y violar bases de datos de opositores con información sobre sus donantes. Con el pasar de los años reunió equipos que espiaban, robaban y difamaban en representación de campañas presidenciales dentro de Latinoamérica. Sus servicios no eran baratos, pero el espectro era amplio. Por US$12.000 al mes, un cliente contrataba a un equipo que podía hackear teléfonos inteligentes, falsificar y clonar sitios web y enviar correos electrónicos y mensajes de texto masivos. El paquete prémium, a un costo de US$20.000 mensuales, también incluía una amplia gama de intercepción digital, ataque, decodificación y defensa. Los trabajos eran cuidadosamente blanqueados a través de múltiples intermediarios y asesores. Sepúlveda señala que es posible que muchos de los candidatos que ayudó no estuvieran al tanto de su función. Sólo conoció a unos pocos.

Sus equipos trabajaron en elecciones presidenciales en Nicaragua, Panamá, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, México, Costa Rica, Guatemala y Venezuela. Las campañas mencionadas en esta historia fueron contactadas a través de ex y actuales voceros; ninguna salvo el PRI de México y el Partido de Avanzada Nacional de Guatemala quiso hacer declaraciones.

De niño, fue testigo de la violencia de las guerrillas marxistas de Colombia. De adulto se unió a derecha que emergía en Latinoamérica. Creía que sus actividades como hacker no eran más diabólicas que las tácticas de aquellos a quienes se oponía, como Hugo Chávez y Daniel Ortega.

Muchos de los esfuerzos de Sepúlveda no rindieron frutos, pero tiene suficientes victorias como para decir que ha influenciado la dirección política de América Latina moderna tanto como cualquier otra persona en el siglo XXI. "Mi trabajo era hacer acciones de guerra sucia y operaciones psicológicas, propaganda negra, rumores, en fin, toda la parte oscura de la política que nadie sabe que existe pero que todos ven", dice sentado en una pequeña mesa de plástico en un patio exterior ubicado en lo profundo de las oficinas sumamente resguardadas de la Fiscalía General de Colombia. Actualmente, cumple una condena de 10 años por los delitos de uso de software malicioso, conspirar para delinquir, violación de datos y espionaje conectados al hackeo de las elecciones de Colombia de 2014. Accedió a contar su versión completa de los hechos por primera vez con la esperanza de convencer al público de que se ha rehabilitado y obtener respaldo para la reducción de su condena.

Generalmente, señala, estaba en la nómina de Juan José Rendón, un asesor político que reside en Miami y que ha sido catalogado como el Karl Rove de Latinoamérica. Rendón niega haber utilizado a Sepúlveda para cualquier acto ilegal y refuta de forma categórica la versión que Sepúlveda entregó a Bloomberg Businessweek sobre su relación, pero admite conocerlo y haberlo contratado para el diseño de sitios webs. "Si hablé con él puede haber sido una o dos veces, en una sesión grupal sobre eso, sobre el sitio web", declara. “En ningún caso hago cosas ilegales. Hay campañas negativas. No les gusta, de acuerdo. Pero si es legal lo haré. No soy un santo, pero tampoco soy un criminal" (Destaca que pese a todos los enemigos que ha acumulado con el transcurso de los años debido a su trabajo en campañas, nunca se ha visto enfrentado a ningún cargo criminal). A pesar de que la política de Sepúlveda era destruir todos los datos al culminar un trabajo, dejó algunos documentos con miembros de su equipo de hackers y otros personas de confianza a modo de “póliza de seguro” secreta.

Sepúlveda proporcionó a Bloomberg Businessweek correos electrónicos que según él muestran conversaciones entre él, Rendón, y la consultora de Rendón acerca del hackeo y el progreso de ciberataques relacionados a campañas. Rendón señala que los correos electrónicos son falsos. Un análisis llevado a cabo por una empresa de seguridad informática independiente demostró que un muestreo de los correos electrónicos que examinaron parecen ser auténticos. Algunas de las descripciones de Sepúlveda sobre sus actividades concuerdan con relatos publicados de eventos durante varias campañas electorales, pero otros detalles no pudieron ser verificados de forma independiente. Una persona que trabajó en la campaña en México y que pidió mantener su nombre en reserva por temor a su seguridad, confirmó en gran parte la versión de Sepúlveda sobre su función y la de Rendón en dicha elección.

Sepúlveda dice que en España le ofrecieron varios trabajos políticos que habría rechazado por estar demasiado ocupado. Al preguntarle si la campaña presidencial de EEUU está siendo alterada, su respuesta es inequívoca. “Estoy cien por ciento seguro de que lo está”, afirma.

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