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Thursday, December 01, 2022

Hired ‘hackers’ try, and fail, to invade Brazil’s vote system

BRASILIA, Brazil – More than 20 potential hackers gathered at the headquarters of Brazil’s electoral authority in the capital this week. Their mission: to infiltrate the nation’s voting system ahead of a hotly anticipated race in October.

TSE analysts and members said the test results were more encouraging than ever. All experts who attempted to disrupt the system – including federal police agents and university professors in engineering, information technology, data security and computer science – had failed.

“None of the attacks managed to change the destination of the vote in the electronic ballot,” TSE’s information technology secretary, Julio Valente da Costa, later told the Associated Press in an interview. “The importance of this test is for us to be confident, at least about all the technology and computing components for the polls.”

When Bolsonaro won the presidential race four years ago, he claimed that he had actually won in the first round, not weeks after the runoff. The former army captain has repeatedly alleged that the voting system used for three decades is weak, and has repeatedly stated that he had evidence fraud, but never presented any evidence.

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

Analysts and politicians have expressed concern that far-right Bolsonaro, who is trailing left-wing former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in all early elections, is grounds for following the lead of his ally, former US President Donald Trump, and rejecting the election results. preparing. ,

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TSE has made considerable efforts 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 ballot paper for different communities. Limited to carry and strengthen security in violent areas. ,

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

An Army general who is part of a commission submitted dozens of questions to TSE earlier this year.

“The (armed forces) are being directed to attack the process and try to discredit it,” Supreme Court Justice Luis Roberto Barroso, who presided over TSE until February, told a German university on March 24. Said during a conference with. His comments attracted backlash from Bolsonaro’s defense ministry, which issued a statement saying the allegation was “a serious disgrace”.

Barroso’s successor at TSE, Supreme Court Justice Luiz Edson Fachín, said on Thursday that the focus of the elections would be by “unarmed forces”, adding that the announcement of TSE’s voting results would be final.

Still, some analysts are concerned.

“The armed forces today are part of Bolsonaro’s government from a political point of view, and they are helping the president’s efforts to crush the institutions from the inside,” said Joo Martíns Filho, a military expert who headed the Brazilian Association of Defense Studies. , said by phone. “It’s no small thing. It’s very dangerous.”

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

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TSE’s testing began in November, when experts selected 29 methods to hack the voting system. TSE said at the time that the five managed to make some interventions, which were minor and did not affect the results. Those five plots were evaluated in a three-day trial this week that showed all issues were resolved, Sandro Nunes Vieira, a TSE member, 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, a professor of data security at the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul, was part of a group that tried to break into the system. He and a student had discovered a flaw in the audio output that could have violated vote secrecy. On Friday, he told Associated Press that the issue was resolved by TSE.

There will be more tests in August, when TSE will conduct some simulation on election day. Only then would the Brazilian presidential campaign be officially underway, although both Bolsonaro and da Silva are already holding rallies and events.

TSE will continue to conduct security tests till 15 days before the elections. Since 1996, it has never provided evidence of mass vote fraud.

Wilson Vicente Ruggiero, a professor of computer engineering at the University of So Paulo who is collaborating with TSE, told the Associated Press that “today’s process is more secure than in the past.”

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

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Associated Press journalist Jeanette reported from Rio de Janeiro, and Mauricio Savaris contributed from So Paulo.

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