An investigative report has revealed how a group of Israeli IT gurus hacked into email and social media accounts of close allies of President William Ruto and top officials of the electoral commission days to the August 9 general elections.
The report by a consortium of journalists across the world has found that a Israeli national Tal Hanan led a team of disinformation experts who manipulated dozens of elections across the world.
Details of the findings revealed in a series of stories published by the UK-based media outlet, The Guardian, established that digital campaign strategist Dennis Itumbi and another Ruto ally had their social media accounts hacked.
Itumbi has also admitted that his Telegram account was hacked and used to join several political groups and to spread false information.
“I don’t use Telegram for any communication. I noticed increased activity on my Telegram account. The pattern showed that it was our competitors behind it. So we formed a few political groups and used them to mislead the hackers. For example, we would post that UDA will not hire agents for the elections,” Itumbi said.
The report further revealed that in one of the secretly recorded meetings with Mr Hanan’s team, the Israeli national hacked into a Gmail account owned by a personal assistant to an unnamed senior Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) official.
But the report did not reveal if there were further successful attempts to infiltrate either election officials or systems that were used during the 2022 general elections.
During the hearing of the Supreme Court petition challenging President Ruto’s win, his main opponent Raila Odinga claimed that IEBC servers were infiltrated by foreigners to manipulate the results of the election.
The IEBC refuted the claims, holding that its systems were “military grade” and that the elections were free and fair. The Supreme Court dismissed the petitions challenging President Ruto’s win, and termed Mr Odinga’s hacking allegations as “hot air”.
Hanan leads a hackers group that identifies itself as Team Jorge, and also owns a firm registered as Demoman International, whose business has been promoted on websites run by Israeli government.
The Israeli hackers demonstrated how good they are at spreading disinformation. They managed to hack into Telegram accounts owned by two top officials in President Ruto’s campaign team and sent message from one strategists to the other and even deleted some.
Mr Hanan and his team would later develop a software that was used to spread fake news in record time. Their Advanced Impact Media Solutions software can create thousands of fake social media profiles, which then spread disinformation. The false identities created are detailed, with pictures and personal histories that seem very realistic.
But the hackers refused to reveal why they used accounts owned by top IEBC official’s personal assistant, or whether they were specifically hired to manipulate campaigns and the elections.
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