- André Shalders – @andreshalders
- BBC News Brasil in Brasilia
2 hours ago
The Superior Electoral Court (TSE) did not conduct a bid to hire the “supercomputer” whose performance caused a delay in the counting of the municipal elections this Sunday (11/15).
The TSE contract with Oracle do Brasil Sistemas, responsible for the service, was executed with no bidding. It was published in the Federal Official Gazette on March 25 this year, with a total value of R $ 26.2 million.
So far, the Brazilian Electoral Justice has committed R $ 19,564,473.36 in favor of Oracle’s Brazilian branch in 2020, according to data collected by BBC News Brasil using the Federal Senate’s Siga Brasil tool.
It is not possible to say, however, whether all payments refer to the same contract, nor how long the contract is worth R $ 26.2 million. The amount of R $ 19.5 million includes commitments made by regional electoral courts in some states, although most of the expenses are from the TSE.
In the extract published in the Official Gazette, the TSE cites an article in the Bidding Law (1993) to justify the waiver of the bidding. According to the norm, the purchase or contract can be made directly, without bidding, when there is only one company able to provide that service. Another hypothesis is when the government needs services “of a singular nature, with professionals or companies of notable specialization”.
The “supercomputers” supplied by Oracle to TSE are of the Exadata X8 model – they are devices with a processing capacity much higher than a personal computer, and whose size is slightly larger than that of a domestic refrigerator or freezer.
The weight of each device varies from 915 to 400 kilos, according to the product manual.
According to an information technology professional consulted by BBC News Brasil, the term “supercomputer” is no longer used – today, experts in the field refer to this type of device as a dedicated datacenter service.
Speaking of “supercomputer” must have been a didactic way found by the Court’s technology team to differentiate the device from a home computer, says the professional, on condition of anonymity.
Asked about the matter by the BBC News Brasil report on Sunday night (11/15), TSE’s Information Technology secretary, Giuseppe Dutra Janino, said that the operation of the “supercomputer” was the responsibility of Oracle.
He also said that it was not an outsourcing, but a service contract.
“This computer is installed through a service. It plays the role of the computational cloud. That is, it is a supercomputer, it is contracted (through) a company, this company is Oracle; it installs this computer and keeps it up and running. It’s a service, not an acquisition. Therefore, the maintenance, conservation, support, proper functioning of the equipment is the company’s responsibility, “he said.
The BBC News Brasil report sought both Oracle and the Superior Electoral Court for comment on Monday afternoon (11/16). The company said it would not comment on the matter; the court did not respond to the request for information.
In principle, there is no irregularity or illegality in the contract between Oracle and the court.
TSE changes versions of ‘supercomputer’
Since the slow vote count was noted on Sunday night, the TSE has provided divergent explanations for the problem.
Initially, Minister Luís Roberto Barroso said the slowness was caused by a failure in one of the machine’s processor cores. He also suggested that the delay was linked to an “increase in security measures” adopted by the court, which came to be the target of an attempted hacker attack on Sunday morning (15/11).
“There was a delay in totaling the results due to a technical problem that was exactly the following: one of the processor cores of the supercomputer that processes the totalization failed and it was necessary to repair it,” he said on Sunday night (15/11) ).
According to Janino, only two of the five predicted tests were done on the equipment, already with the software settings for use in the election. The other three tests were performed before, on other equipment.
The practical effect of this is that the supercomputer took a long time to “learn” how to count a large volume of votes in a short period of time, which caused the counting to be slow and even to stall at times.
In an interview with reporters on Monday afternoon (16/11), Barroso also said the court made a diagnostic error by attributing the fault to a problem in one of the supercomputer cores.
Barroso went back to minimizing the problems faced by the TSE on Sunday night. He stressed the fact that the election results are correct and reliable – despite the delay in being released.
“The only impact of this problem was the delay of a little less than three hours in the dissemination of the results that was made on the night of the election day itself. Few countries in the world are able to accomplish this feat”, said the minister.
Centralized counting in Brasília
These elections were the first in which the totalization (that is, the counting) of the votes was centralized in Brasília – until then, the task was up to the Regional Electoral Courts (TREs) of the States, including in general elections. The only dispute that totaled in Brasilia was that of President of the Republic. All others occurred in the States.
Barroso initially said “he has no sympathy” for the change. Then he went back and defended centralization in Brasília – which would be a recommendation by the Federal Police itself, to increase the security of the election.
“The centralization in the TSE, which, in the previous press conference, I observed that I had no sympathy (…) was a recommendation of the expertise of the Federal Police, in the name of providing greater security to the totalization (…). It was a decision technical, resulting from a recommendation by the PF. And although I said earlier that I had no sympathy for the measure, I would also have taken it if it had been under my management, because it was the technical recommendation of a detailed report by the Federal Police, “he said. the president of the TSE.
Hacker attack and instability
In addition to the slowness in the counting, the Electoral Court also faced other problems related to information technology during this year’s municipal elections.
The e-Título mobile application was unstable during the day, and was unavailable to people who tried to use the tool to justify their vote, for example.
“Sorry! Something went wrong with your request. We kindly ask you to try to access this service in a few minutes. If the problem persists, check your Internet connection,” said the application’s error message.
Finally, the delay in counting was reflected in the release of data in the TSE Repository, where full data on the elections are available. In this case, the information only started to be released around 2 pm on Monday (11/16).
During Sunday, the court was also the target of a DDoS-type hacker attack, in which a large number of access attempts are made simultaneously, with the aim of taking down a particular website or service. The attack, however, was stopped by the TSE with the help of telephone companies.
According to the TSE’s technology area, there were 436 thousand attempts to connect to the Court system per second, fired from Brazil, the United States and New Zealand.
In another action, a group leaked on Sunday morning (11/15) old data that had been stolen from the court, in order to make it appear that the Electoral Justice systems had been corrupted on election day – which did not happen.
“At the same time that these data were leaked, digital militias immediately went into action trying to discredit the system. There are suspicions of the articulation of extremist groups that are working to discredit the institutions,” Barroso said on Monday.
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