Malawi: Suleman Demonstrates How Malawi Elections Were 'Rigged' - Claims MEC System Had 'Ghost User'

9 November 2019

Malawi Congress Party (MCP Information Technology (IT) expert and final witness Daud Suleman n the on-going presidential elections case on Friday took the Constitutional Court sitting in Lilongwe through an 'imaginary' constituency tally centre results management to Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) main tally centre system until they are announced to demonstrate how the electoral body's computerised election result management system (RMS) was breached by a "ghost " user to change results of the presidential elections in favour of incumbent President Peter Mutharika.

Suleman details how elections were 'rigged'

In a presentation using the software MEC used during the May 21 elections, Sulemani's imaginary tally centre was Salima Central Constituency which had four polling centres.

The witness focused on demonstrating before the panel of five judges hearing the election case, how the electoral body results management system safeguards were breached.

Going through the same process MEC used to get results from the constituency centre to the main tally centre until MEC Chairperson Dr Jane Ansah announced final results, Suleman, who is witness to second petitioner Lazarus Chakwera, took the court through the technical process that saw clean final results as well as those that were tampered with by unknown forces trough the backdoor.

According to Suleman, once the results were confirmed by an auditor at the constituency tally centre, they change to status four meaning they were ready to be sent to MEC main tally centre, where if confirmed by the system, they turn into status 20 meaning they were verified and ready to be announced as final results.

"In Comesa (MEC main tally center) in Blantyre a physical copy will be printed, the auditors will certify, the other internal processes there has to be an internal approver to go into the system, to approve those scores so that they are aggregated and tallied for a fully official result," he said adding that the whole process took about five minutes.

At this stage, Suleman said after getting into the system, the approver had to compare the printed copy and that which is in the system.

"At this time, the system shows the identity of the person who captured data and at what time, who was the second person and what time they entered the results and who was the auditor who touched the results," he said.

Using graphical evidence, Suleman demonstrated to the court first how the computer system left trailing evidence that information which had earlier been applauded in the system was later deleted by the hacker or group of hackers.

Throughout this process, Sulemani said the system would show that it processed the data in milliseconds because the data was processed in the same processor because it's only the computer that can process data in this way.

He said that when the results are entered and verified by the system, all the columns on the tally sheet will have data in them without a blank.

"Secondly in the time stamps, you see that except that those that have been committed by one user at the same time, the rest of these do not have similar time stamps. This is a characteristic of how data in a database would look and behave if it was done by human beings. Because there will be gaps in the processes from one process to another process," said Suleman.

At the end of the process, Chakwera MCP got 3349 votes, Chilima UTM has 627 and Mutharika DPP got 314 votes.

"So my lady my lords, if I were a MEC Chair for this imaginary country at this time I will declare that person a winner," he said adding that during this period there were no gaps, no identical and different time stamps despite that while doing all that process there was unauthorized access into their saver.

During all this process, Suleman said all papers were touched end to end by human beings to manipulate election results purportedly in favour of Mutharika against the will of the voters

"But now we have someone who has gone into our saver and is going to do some other things. From that time to now human beings were busy punching in data and all that trying to build that database, but now we will try to run this via a script," said Suleman while describing a script as a list of instructions that has data in it and that data is placed in places where MEC Results Management System (RMS) is expecting data.

After rerunning the system twice, it came out that UTM Party president Saulos Chilima and President Peter Mutharika won separately using the script.

"But let's look at the profile and the characteristics of the data in our database; you will see that the approver is a ghost user so it's now blank. There is no name and the time stamps are the same. So this is what a script can do to your database, if you have not hardened your computer system, if you don't have proper controls on how you treat your passwords, if you are giving passwords to anyone else and if your general basic computer security layout is not present you give out to a third party to come through the back door and defy all that human effort that was being done for about 30 minutes and within a course of milliseconds can change history," he said.

Suleman did not mention the IP address of the ghost operator, but suggested MEC system was deliberately compromised by MEC officials, saying they used personal addresses with Google or Yahoo accounts instead of official addresses to use the system; hence, making it possible for the system to be accessed remotely from anywhere outside the MEC system.

The witness suggested that it was possible MEC officials both accidentally and deliberately surrendered such access to the results.

"There were time stamps showing that one computer was being used in Mulanje and Thyolo at the same time. We had one kit present in two geographic areas; we have also discovered that human beings can't process all this in this time. Every set of data must connect with other data; you can't have a blank record, you can't have a table with less than 5 002 tally sheets, all this points to one conclusion; that this data was manipulated by script and unfortunately, a decision was made using this data," said Suleman.

Chilima and Chakwera who are seeking nullification of the presidential election results over alleged irregularities and calling for a re-run.

The case has been adjourned to Monday.

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