Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Update: Anonymous Vs. the Zetas

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 |



Written by Geoffrey Ramsey
In Sight

After initial mixed signals, it appears that online hacker collective Anonymous has decided to take on Mexico’s most violent and feared drug cartel, the Zetas, which could put the drug gang in a tight spot.

In just the past few days, rumors of a showdown between Anonymous and the Zetas drug cartel have been the subject of a veritable media frenzy. Speculation about the scope of the confrontation abounds, fueled by several conflicting reports about the “hacktivist” group’s intentions.

The source of the confusion is a YouTube video (embedded below) which was posted on October 6 by one “MrAnonymousguyfawkes,” which shows a masked speaker accusing the Zetas in Veracruz of having kidnapped a member of Anonymous in that state. As retribution, the individual claims that Anonymous will expose Zetas-linked police officers, officials and journalists unless their associate is released. “You made a great mistake in taking one of us; release him and if something happens to him, you [expletive] will remember the 5th of November.”

The ultimatum received little attention from Mexican media until STRATFOR picked up on the story and published an analysis of the incident. In their report, the global intelligence company points out that any individual that Anonymous names as a Zetas collaborator will likely be killed, “whether or not the information released is accurate.” The report also notes that the move opens up the hackers to reprisal attacks, as the Zetas have been known to target their online critics in the past. Three individuals were tortured and killed in Nuevo Laredo in two separate incidents in September, with signs left next to the bodies accusing them of reporting crimes on Internet forums.


As news of Anonymous’ threat spread, they appeared to make their first move on October 28, when the group defaced the website of Gustavo Rosario Torres, a former state prosecutor from Tabasco. The page, which remained vandalized at the time of writing, features the message “Gustavo Rosario is a Zeta” imposed over an image of carved jack-o-lanterns.

Following this, two individuals identifying themselves as administrators of the Mexican affiliates of Anonymous distanced themselves from it and all actions related to “Operation Cartel,” or “#OpCartel,” as it has become known on Twitter. In an October 30 interview with Mexico’s Milenio, the individuals claimed to have canceled the operation, citing the risks involved.

Since then, Anonymous Mexico has reversed its stance, claiming on its Facebook page that the operation has been taken up again, although they warn less experienced members to stay away from it. In cooperation with Anonymous Iberoamerica, the largest Spanish-speaking Anonymous network, the group on Monday set up an online form where visitors can report individuals who have connections with the Zetas. In addition to this, a source close to the operation told the New York Times they were in possession of a “list of about 100 or so of the major contacts of the Zetas.” Armed with the names and personal details of these individuals, the hacker group seems to have thrown their hat into the ring and taken on the confrontation with their Zeta foes.

On one level, the incident can be interpreted as further proof that a new front in the “drug war” has opened up on the Internet. Increasingly, Mexican drug trafficking organizations have been using the web to threaten rivals, proclaim their innocence and brag about their exploits. Web page comments, YouTube videos and Twitter feeds have all been employed by Mexican cartels to communicate with the public. But as the deaths of the bloggers in Nuevo Laredo illustrate, this virtual battleground can have very real consequences.

On another level, the incident is an illustration of the role that fear plays in the Zetas’ exercise of power. Anonymous members' doubts about the operation are well-founded, as the Zetas are generally thought of as the most dangerous drug cartel in Mexico, who carry out brutal public revenge on their enemies. But as the hacking collective decided to go through with the operation, the Zetas could be in a highly vulnerable position. If they give in to Anonymous’ demands and free the kidnapping victim -- presuming he or she exists -- then they risk opening themselves up to further challenges to their authority.

This is especially important to the Zetas, as they don't have the support base that other groups (like the Sinaloa Cartel in the Sierra Madre, or the once-mighty Familia Michoacana in Michoacan) possess. Conversely, if they don’t turn over the kidnapping victim, then they risk damaging much of the connections that keep their business together in the Veracruz area.

Anonymous message to Zeta cartel (English): Posted by Anonymous Iberoamerica


Nuevo Comunicado de Anonymous Op cartel


Original Video


English "Mirror" Video

Additional link:(Spanish) Zetas have their own team of internet experts monitoring Operation Cartel supporters/activists

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29 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

This is going to get innocent people killed.

Anonymous said...

it already has for 5 years. Just watch while you can.

Anonymous said...

Innocent people have been getting killed...so what do we got to lose?

Anonymous said...

There was mass confusion due to the variety of individuals composing anonymous. Some did not want to go forward with the mission, while others did. Especially since this group has no hierarchy, however, those who feel it necessary are carrying on with the threat. They are excellent at what they do and I expect nothing less than success if the plan is executed through.

Anonymous said...

8:42 PM...You are exactly right. What can people do, wait on the government to have a change of heart (lol) or worse, wait on the government to win (again lol). Someone needs to stand tall. At least someone is getting out of their chair. How many innocent people have been killed? How many families have had their very hearts and souls ripped from their bodies? How many ranchers, farmers and business men have had their livelihood taken from the and forced into poverty? The current government does not know how to end it, maybe the people can force a negotiation for peace. The government seems to want to continue this useless war until the cartels have extorted everything and they don't seem to care as long as they come across as heros.

Anonymous said...

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November

Anonymous said...

Anonymous is good at getting attention. Unfortunately they always fail to deliver. Hacking a few websites, prank phone calls, and a few people protesting is what always follows there big dates. They are a joke.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any idea who are these guys are? are they just a band of random internet expert hackers? (yes I know they are called anonymous for a reason) I assume they would be in America just so it would be harder to be found by the Zeta's.

Anonymous said...

Also.....how do these guys know who the corrupt members of the forces are who work for the Zeta's?

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter if they want to back out now. They threw down the gauntlet and the Zetas will have to take it seriously. To not do so would show weakness. All Anons are a target now you better believe it.

Anonymous said...

stratfor? coming out in the spotlight without getting paid? haha!

Anonymous said...

2 05 you don't know what your talking about, these guys no what there doing and goverments have failed to stopped them. They brought down 30 gov websites for mynmar, realeased names of 1500 pedofiles online, brought down sony a couple of times. There online gaming was down for a couple months becouse of them. They've pissed of a lot of people and if zetas ever catch and kill a member, some people would be happy

Anonymous said...

Give them hell anonymous, release all the information you have of Zetas to the world. Stores, clubs, businesses, government officials, and other people that have ties to them.. That way the government or more likely the other cartels can hunt these savages down..

Anonymous said...

@11:45 I do know what I'm talking about, because I have followed them for a long time. Just as you yourself admitted, they hacked some sites. Big Whoop! I can find more than 1500 pedophile names myself, and release them online, again Big Whoop! The most successful thing they ever did was hack sony. They have always failed to deliver on their big dates. If you think bringing down some zeta websites for a few days, or giving names of people who everyone already knows is tied to the zetas is a big deal. Then good for you. It doesn't impress me much though.

Anonymous said...

Well how would they know what people are working for the zeta's anyway??? I don't get how they could know names of corrupt officials unless they themselves were once Zeta's which is highly unlikely.

From what I have read it seems they backed down from doing it anyway. I guess they really are all talk. Kind of a bummer as I was hoping they would throw some stuff out there which would
put them in some trouble but nope just all talk no action.

Anonymous said...

Dumb move. The Z's will go after their friends and families and likely hire Russians, East European IT experts and Chinese. Just sayin.

John said...

@ November 2, 2011 5:34 PM <---This guy has it right. I've made numerous comments here, on Wired, and CNN about this and it's just all around terrible idea. They have infinite more resources than these "Anonymous" people; they could easily hire or simply kidnap the best IT professionals in the world. Sure, many may be idealist, but if an offer of hundreds of thousands of dollars to work on one project to electronically track someone doesn't work, the bullet definitely will.

"Plato o plomo" from the Colombians. And another thing we should have learned from them and the sophistication their money can buy: look what it took to get to Pablo Escobar. It took the best operators in the world at hunting people through SIGINT, amongst many other means, the United States Army Intelligence Support Activity, as well as our most elite soldiers and trackers themselves -- DELTA Force. That, as well as all the resources of the Colombian government/military, which was significant because of additional tools we had given them to use in the hunt years prior.

Even then they only got lucky because they had held Pablo's family hostage in a government-owned "hotel" where they could monitor their communications with ease. Pablo feared for their safety and called them and they triangulated his position via radio triangulation technology.

I do not support Anonymous at all in this because of all the collateral damage it will almost certainly cause. Murders will almost certainly occur because of their out-of-nowhere little game. Listen to Stratfor -- they have people who definitely have good "ears on the ground" in Mexico and they understand the situation there pretty thoroughly. What they said is almost guaranteed to happen.

Anonymous said...

You can't compare Pablo Escobar in this scenario. He was a lone power house in his country and exposing his location of interests wouldn't matter because no one in that country would do anything about it. This is different, this cartel thrives on intimidation and anonymity. They black out the media to keep any information from getting out. They know that exposing them could leave them vulnerable to the military or even worse to rival cartels as powerful as them. Pablo Escobar didn't have the Sinaloa or Gulf cartel at his doorstep waiting for him to pop his head out.

This war is serious for both the Zetas and Anonymous...they have the tools to really hurt each other.

Ovemex said...

Details from Anonymous’s OpCartel from a not so anonymous source : http://neglectedwar.com/blog/archives/8775

Anonymous said...

hire whoever you want...........

the true elite Anonymous members are untraceable........

Anonymous said...

Can somebody please tell me how would anonymous know these things? I mean I am sure a lot of people in Mexico know who is behind the Zeta's anyway but are afraid to come forward about it but these guys seem to be saying they have some sort of deep inside information which would really put the Zeta's in some shit if they were to go public with it. Is this true?

What did they do? they tap into some sort of Zeta's computer or something to get a list of names of corrupt politicians?

Anonymous said...

7:27...

yes and hack into their phones.... I bet you have one of those in your pocket yourself......you are talking about a world of cyberspace expertise difficult for most to put their hands around and grasp

"L"B said...

when one side is motivated by money...and the other by ideals...who is stronger?...money can be stopped...but an idea whose time has come is unstoppable...

and the time of the zetas being over is one really timely idea..

i hope

Anonymous said...

Anon is like behind 7 proxies lol. And internets is serious business. Damn I crack myself up with internet lingo. Anyways I doubt anything will happen. Their just going to go on and off and on and off.

Anonymous said...

7:27, Anonymous has probably gained access to some Zeta email accounts and is reading their correspondence. Trust me as someone who has done this kind of work in the past: once you gain a foothold, it's easy to break into more and more accounts in an organization. Even if you can't crack the top guys (who probably have access to good network security resources) if you get into enough of the accounts of the second and third tier guys, you can learn an enormous amount, as info always tends to seep through these kinds of networks.

Anonymous said...

November 5th came and went. Again Anonymous fails to deliver. I wish the media would actually take note that these idiots never do anything on their big dates, and stop covering them!

Anonymous said...

I waited til November 5th. Did I miss something? Guess all of Anonymous is busy waiting til November 8th - Modern Warefare 3

Anonymous said...

Well as you can see, nothing happened & the Zetas are still strong and holding their ground!!!

Anonymous said...

Let us speak

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