The increasing frequency of cyberattacks against Mexican financial institutions amid a climate of election interference from cyber intrusions around the world is raising alarm bells in Mexico ahead of Sunday’s presidential vote.
Tensions are high as electronic systems will be used to tally and transmit the results of a paper ballot vote cast by Mexicans on July 5, with even the smallest disruption enough to plant the seed of distrust.
The polarizing election sees Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a left-wing politician, as the frontrunner in what could be the first victory for a leftist party in nearly five decades. The presidential candidate has frequently accused his opponents of fraud in keeping him from a winning shot of previous elections. His rivals claim his presidency will throw Mexico’s economy into disarray.
“The outcome of an election almost doesn’t matter” for hackers, said Ron Bushar, vice president of government solutions for cybersecurity firm Mandiant in an interview with Bloomberg. It’s about “calling into question the legitimacy (of the process) or creating a lot of tension between the political parties.”
There has been a precedent for such concerns. In December, former US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster pointed to evidence of Russian interference in Mexico’s campaign. ‘An attack’ on a website that was supposed be published by presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya also pointed the finger at Russia.
“Cybersecurity continues to be a potential Achilles heel of Mexico’s electoral process,” added Arturo Sarukhan, a former Mexican ambassador to the U.S.
Further, the hack of state-owned Bancomext bank resulted in a $110 million theft in January. Hackers have also infiltrated five financial institutions to steal at least $15 million in April and May, adding more reasons to cybersecurity fears in the lead-up to the crucial elections.
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