Hired ‘hackers’ attempt, and fail, to invade Brazil’s voting system

BRASILIA, Brazil — More than 20 would-be hackers gathered at the headquarters of Brazil’s electoral authority in the capital this week. Their mission: to infiltrate the national electoral system before a highly anticipated race in October.

Analysts and members of the TSE said the test results were more encouraging than ever. All experts who tried to disrupt the system – including federal police officers and university professors in engineering, computer science, data security and computer science – had failed.

“No attack has succeeded in altering the destination of a vote in the electronic ballot,” Julio Valente da Costa, TSE’s information technology secretary, told The Associated Press in an interview afterwards. “The importance of this test is for us to be reassured, at least on all the technological and IT components for the elections.”

When Bolsonaro won the presidential race four years ago, he claimed he actually won in the first round, not the second round weeks later. The former army captain has repeatedly accused that the voting system used for three decades is vulnerable, and has sometimes said he has evidence of fraud, but has never presented evidence.

Last year, Bolsonaro suggested the election could be canceled unless voting reform is passed in Congress. But the proposed constitutional change did not garner enough votes.

Analysts and politicians have expressed concern that far-right Bolsonaro, who trails left-leaning former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in all early polls, is setting the stage to follow his ally’s lead, former US President Donald Trump, and rejects the election results. .

The TSE has gone to great lengths to bring more openness to the electoral process, even inviting the armed forces to sit on its transparency commission, although the military’s role in elections has traditionally been limited to carrying ballots. to vote in isolated communities and to strengthen security in violent regions. .

Some political and military analysts have argued that the TSE’s olive branch turned out to be a mistake as tensions have since escalated.

An army general who serves on a commission submitted dozens of questions to the TSE earlier this year.

“(The armed forces) are guided to attack the process and try to discredit it,” Supreme Court Justice Luis Roberto Barroso, who chaired the TSE until February, told a conference with a German university. March 24. reaction from Bolsonaro’s defense ministry, which issued a statement saying the accusation was “a grave insult”.

Barroso’s successor on the TSE, Supreme Court Justice Luiz Edson Fachin, said on Thursday that the elections would be handled by “unarmed forces”, adding that the declaration of the TSE’s vote results would be final.

Still, some analysts remain worried.

“The armed forces are now part of Bolsonaro’s government, from a political point of view, and they help the president’s efforts to corrode the institutions from within,” said João Martins Filho, a military expert who led the Brazilian Association for Defense Studies. said over the phone. ” It’s not nothing. It’s very dangerous.”

Last week, as the TSE prepared for its test, Bolsonaro promised his party would seek an external audit of the system before the first round of voting.

The TSE test has its origins in November, when experts selected 29 methods to hack into the voting system. Five managed to cause interference, which was minor and did not affect the results, the TSE said at the time. These five plots were assessed during the three-day test this week, which showed that all issues had been resolved, TSE member Sandro Nunes Vieira told reporters after its completion. A commission will evaluate the results and publish an official report at the end of May.

Carlos Alberto da Silva, professor of data security at the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul, was among the group that tried to break into the system. He and a student had discovered a flaw in the audio output that could breach voting confidentiality. On Friday, he told the AP that the issue had been resolved by the TSE.

Further testing will follow in August, when the TSE runs a kind of Election Day simulation. This is when the Brazilian presidential campaign will officially begin, although Bolsonaro and da Silva are already organizing rallies and events.

The TSE will continue to carry out security tests up to 15 days before the election. Since 1996, he has never found evidence of mass voter fraud.

Wilson Vicente Ruggiero, a professor of computer engineering at the University of Sao Paulo who collaborates with the TSE, told the AP that “today’s process is much safer than that of the past.”

“There is no reason to fear that the ballot or the process itself will be rigged,” Ruggiero said.


AP Jeantet reporters reported from Rio de Janeiro, and Mauricio Savarese contributed from Sao Paulo.

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