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Cómo hackear una elección

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

PARTE 2

Sepúlveda creció en medio de la pobreza en Bucaramanga, ocho horas al norte de Bogotá en auto. Su madre era secretaria. Su padre era activista y ayudaba a agricultores a buscar mejores productos para cultivar que la coca, por lo que la familia se mudó constantemente debido a las amenazas de muerte de narcotraficantes. Sus padres se divorciaron y a los 15 años, tras reprobar en la escuela, se mudó donde su padre en Bogotá y utilizó un computador por primera vez. Más tarde se inscribió en una escuela local de tecnología y a través de un amigo que conoció ahí aprendió a programar.

En 2005, el hermano mayor de Sepúlveda, publicista, ayudaba en las campañas parlamentarias de un partido alineado con el entonces presidente de Colombia Álvaro Uribe. Uribe era uno de los héroes de los hermanos, un aliado de Estados Unidos que fortaleció al ejército para luchar contra las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). Durante una visita a la sede del partido, Sepúlveda sacó su computador portátil y comenzó a analizar la red inalámbrica del recinto. Con facilidad interceptó el computador de Rendón, el estratega del partido, y descargó la agenda de Uribe y sus próximos discursos. Sepúlveda señala que Rendón se puso furioso y lo contrató ahí mismo. Rendón dice que esto nunca ocurrió.

Durante décadas, las elecciones en Latinoamérica fueron manipuladas y no ganadas, y los métodos eran bastante directos. Los encargados locales de adulterar elecciones repartían desde pequeños electrodomésticos a dinero en efectivo a cambio de votos. Sin embargo, en la década de 1990 reformas electorales se extendieron por la región. Los votantes recibieron tarjetas de identificación imposibles de falsificar y entidades apartidistas se hicieron cargo de las elecciones en varios países. La campaña electoral moderna, o al menos una versión con la cual Norteamérica estaba familiarizada, había llegado a Latinoamérica.

Rendón ya había lanzado una exitosa carrera que según sus críticos - y más de una demanda - estaba basada en el uso de trucos sucios y la divulgación de rumores. (En 2014, Carlos Mauricio Funes, el entonces presidente de El Salvador, acusó a Rendón de orquestar campañas de guerra sucia dentro de Latinoamérica. Rendón lo demandó en Florida por difamación, pero la corte desestimó el caso señalando que no se podía demandar a Funes por sus actos oficiales). Hijo de activistas a favor de la democracia, estudió sicología y trabajó en publicidad antes de asesorar a candidatos presidenciales en su país natal, Venezuela. Después de acusar en 2004 al entonces presidente Hugo Chávez de fraude electoral, dejó el país y nunca regresó.

Sepúlveda dice que su primer trabajo como hacker consistió en infiltrar el sitio web de un rival de Uribe, robar una base de dato de correos electrónicos y enviar correos masivos a los usuarios con información falsa. Recibió US$15.000 en efectivo por un mes de trabajo, cinco veces más de lo que ganaba en su trabajo anterior como diseñador de sitios web.

Rendón, que era dueño de una flota de automóviles de lujo, usaba relojes ostentosos y gastaba miles de dólares en trajes a medida, deslumbró a Sepúlveda. Al igual que Sepúlveda, Rendón era un perfeccionista. Esperaba que sus empleados llegaran a trabajar temprano y se fueran tarde. "Era muy joven, hacía lo que me gustaba, me pagaban bien y viajaba, era el trabajo perfecto". Pero más que cualquier otra cosa, sus políticas de derecha coincidían. Sepúlveda señala que veía a Rendón como un genio y mentor. Budista devoto y practicante de artes marciales, según su propio sitio web, Rendón cultivaba una imagen de misterio y peligro, vistiendo solo ropa negra en público e incluso utilizando de vez en cuando la vestimenta de un samurái. En su sitio web se denomina el estratega político “mejor pagado, más temido y también el más solicitado y eficiente”. Sepúlveda sería en parte responsable de aquello.

Rendón, indica Sepúlveda, se dio cuenta de que los hackers podían integrarse completamente en una operación política moderna, llevando a cabo ataques publicitarios, investigando a la oposición y hallando maneras de suprimir la participación de un adversario. En cuanto a Sepúlveda, su aporte era entender que los votantes confiaban más en lo que creían eran manifestaciones espontáneas de personas reales en redes sociales que en los expertos que aparecían en televisión o periódicos. Sabía que era posible falsificar cuentas y crear tendencias en redes sociales, todo a un precio relativamente bajo. Escribió un software, llamado ahora Depredador de Redes Sociales, para administrar y dirigir un ejército virtual de cuentas falsas de Twitter. El software le permitía cambiar rápidamente nombres, fotos de perfil y biografías para adaptarse a cualquier circunstancia. Con el transcurso del tiempo descubrió que manipular la opinión pública era tan fácil como mover las piezas en una tablero de ajedrez, o en sus palabras, “pero también cuando me di cuenta que las personas creen más a lo que dice Internet que a la realidad, descubrí que 'tenía el poder' de hacer creer a la gente casi cualquier cosa".

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