According to Sepúlveda, his payments were made in cash, half upfront. When he traveled, he used a fake passport and stayed alone in a hotel, far from campaign staff. No one could bring a smartphone or camera into his room.
Most jobs were initiated in person. Sepúlveda says Rendón would give him a piece of paper with target names, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers. Sepúlveda would take the note to his hotel, enter the data into an encrypted file, then burn the page or flush it down the toilet. If Rendón needed to send an e-mail, he used coded language. To “caress” meant to attack; to “listen to music” meant to intercept a target’s phone calls.
Rendón and Sepúlveda took pains not to be seen together. They communicated over encrypted phones, which they replaced every two months. Sepúlveda says he sent daily progress reports and intelligence briefings from throwaway e-mail accounts to a go-between in Rendón’s consulting firm.
Each job ended with a specific, color-coded destruct sequence. On election day, Sepúlveda would purge all data classified as “red.” Those were files that could send him and his handlers to prison: intercepted phone calls and e-mails, lists of hacking victims, and confidential briefings he prepared for the campaigns. All phones, hard drives, flash drives, and computer servers were physically destroyed. Less-sensitive “yellow” data—travel schedules, salary spreadsheets, fundraising plans—were saved to an encrypted thumb drive and given to the campaigns for one final review. A week later it, too, would be destroyed.
This piece is both terrifying and not. Politics has always been—and will always be—a dirty, dirty business. That the tactics stay apace with the technology of the time shouldn't come as a surprise. Keep in mind that the title of this piece is 'How to Hack an Election.' It isn't 'How to Hack an Election and Win.'