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Re: S-weekly for Comment - Placing the Anonymous vs. Zeta conflict in context

Released on 2012-03-02 01:00 GMT

Email-ID 167090
Date 2011-11-01 23:42:42

From: "Sean Noonan"
To: "Analyst List"
Sent: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 4:45:43 PM
Subject: Re: S-weekly for Comment - Placing the Anonymous vs. Zeta
conflict in context

On 11/1/11 1:11 PM, scott stewart wrote:

Placing the Anonymous vs. Zeta Conflict in Context

On Oct. 31, the online activist collective Anonymous posted a message to
the internet in which it stated that it was continuing with its
campaign against the Mexican criminal cartels and their
governmentsupporters despite the inherent danger.

The messageurged inexperienced activists who might not be practicing
proper online security measures to abstain from participating. It also
urged individuals associated with Anonymous to not conduct physical
pamphlet drops, participate in protests, wear or purchase Guy Fawkes
masks, or use Guy Fawkes imagery in their internet or physical world
activities.[Is this universally or just in Mexico? The former points to
problems with LE cracking down on them, the latter specifically to
cartel retribution] Guy Fawkes was British Catholic conspirator who was
involved in a plot to bomb the British Parliament in 1605, and who has
become somewhat of an Anarchist icon in the United Kingdom. The British
celebrate Guy Fawkes Day each year on Nov. 5, and the day has special
meaning for the anarchists.

It is not coincidental then, that in their Oct. 6 video, Anonymous set
Nov. 5 as the deadline for Los Zetas to release the Anonymous associate
who was allegedly kidnapped in Veracruz by Los Zetas. The Anonymous
associate was reportedly abducted during an Anonymous leaflet campaign
called Operation Paperstorm.

The Oct. 31message acknowledged that the operation against Los Zetas,
dubbed a**# OpCartela** is dangerous and noted that the collective would
be assembling a hand-picked group of known and trusted associates to
participate in a special task force to execute the operation.[hahahaha,
this says something about leadership] It asked supporters to use a
software widget[WC. is this the correct term?] they had developed in
order to anonymously pass information pertaining to drug trafficking to
the task force, which will then distribute it.

With Nov. 5, approaching, and at least some elements of Anonymous not
backing down on their threats to Los Zetas, we thought it would be
useful to provide some context to the present conflict between Anonymous
and Los Zetas and to also address some of its potential implications.


First it issignificant to understand that the physical? geographic?
epicenter of this event is Veracruz, which has been a very busy place
over the past few months in terms of Mexicoa**s cartel wars. The port
city also serves as a critical transportation hub for the narcotics
smuggling activities of the Los Zetas cartel. Because of this, Stratfor
has identified Veracruz as [link
] a bellweather city thatwill help determine the trajectory of the Los
Zetas cartel in the coming months.

One of the big recent developments in Veracruz was the Sinaloa
cartela**s push into the Zeta stronghold using the [link
] Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), which using the name
Matazetas (Zeta killers) conducted some high-profile body dumps of over
50 alleged low-level Zeta operatives on Sept. 20 and 22. On Oct. 25,
Mexican Marines arrested Carlos Arturo Pitalua-Carillo, a**El Bam
Bam,a** who was Los Zetas plaza boss in Veracruz. This means that in
Veracruz at the present time, Los Zetas are feeling pressure from both
the Government of Mexico and the CJNG.

Into this dynamic flow, we had the Anonymous internet collective begin
to take action in Veracruz in August. In response to what Anonymous saw
as the state of Veracruz supporting the Los Zetas cartel, they launched
Operation Paperstorm, in which activists who associated themselves with
the Anonymous collective distributed leaflets throughout Veracruz
claiming the state government supports Los Zetas. They conducted major
leaflet distributions on Aug. 13, 20, and 29. They also released videos
to the internet on Aug. 26 and 29, condemning the State of Veracruz.
(According to the Oct. 6 Anonymous video, Los Zetas allegedly kidnapped
one of the activists involved in Operation Paperstorm.)

Activities outside of Veracruz have also played a part in setting the
stage. On Sept. 13, two people were tortured and killed and their bodies
hung from a pedestrianoverpass in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. Signs
left with the bodies signified that Los Zetas had killed the pair
because they had posted information pertaining to Los Zetas on blogs
that specialize in reporting on the Mexican cartels. On Sept 26, the
body of Marisol Macias Casteneda was found beheaded in a park in Nuevo
Laredo. Macias who worked for a local newspaper allegedly posted on
cartel blogs using the nickname a**Laredo Girl.a** A message found with
her body noted that she was killed by Los Zetas due to her online

Following the death of Laredo Girl, Anonymous claimed responsibility for
a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack conducted against the
official website of the state of Veracruz. Although she was killed by
Los Zetas in Nuevo Laredo Tamaulipas, Anonymous said their attack on the
Veracruz state website was because of the death of Laredo Girl. [can you
attempt to explain why they linked it with veracruz?]

It is also important to recognize that some members of Anonymous [again
I hate referring to Anonymous as one entity] was also unhappy with the
State of Veracruz over the decision of the state to prosecute two
individuals who had posted false kidnapping reports on Twitter on Aug.
25. The false reports alleged that a group of children had been abducted
from a Veracruz school and the panic caused by the report allegedly
resulted in some two dozen traffic accidents as terrified parents rushed
to the school to check o n their children. The so-called a**twitter
terroristsa** were initially charged with offenses that could have
carried a 30-year sentence. Those involved in this campaign from
Anonymous, which claims absolute freedom of speech on the internet as
one of its foundational principles, took umbrage with this stiff penalty
for the Twitter case a** especially because it stood in stark contrast
with the impunity many cartel figures enjoy in Mexico.

Following the Oct. 6 release of the video in which Anonymous threatened
Los Zetas if they did not release the kidnapped anonymous activist,
Stratfor began to focus on the story, and in light of the approaching
Nov. 5 deadline, decided to publish an, [link
] analysis of the topic, which was released on Oct. 28.

Following the release of our analysis, the topic has received a great
deal of media coverage. This publicity has generated a very interesting
response from Anonymous -- one that emphasizes the fast that it is a
collective of people and not an organization. As some
Anonymousactivists were backing off the issue, erasing online user
accounts[does this mean accounts of people in support of the attack?],
suggesting that the operation against Los Zetas had been a hoax and
claiming that no activist had been kidnapped, other activists suggested
that the campaign should be suspended. Still other activists became more
strident and determined in their posts, urging that the campaign
continue. Since Anonymous is a collective, activists can pick and choose
which actions they will participate in. that means in his case that
those activists who want to refrain from the campaign will and those who
want to participate will continue it. [i see how this paragraph fits
into your analysis the way you have it written, but I think it might go
better at the front. You could use the 'anonymous discussion' as a
trigger, explain it's "collective" qualities and then go into the rest
of the analysis. This way I feel much less bad about how we refer to

This will to continue was manifested[something is off in the previous
part of the sentence] on Oct. 29, the personal website of Gustavo
RosarioTorres, the former attorney general of the Mexican state of
Tobasco was hacked and defaced with a message from Anonymous Mexico
stating that Rosario was aZeta. It was also reflected in the tone of
the Oct. 31 message. Some activists associated with Anonymous clearly
feel compelled to continue with the campaign due to the outpouring[WC.
Did they really get an outpouring? seemed like they got a lot of
criticism and also support for going against the cartels] of public
support they received in the wake of the media coverage. According to
the Oct 31. Video statement: (did we see specific examples of "public
support" or are we just going off of the youtube statement CLAIMING that
they got lots of support?)

a**we received many expressions of support and solidarity as well as the
voices of people crying for help. We must remember that we are on the
side of the people, and we cannot let down the people, especially in
critical moments like the one they currently live in.a**

We therefore anticipate that some Anonymous activists will continue the
campaign. We also believe that Los Zetas will respond.

Revenge of the Sith (Yes Kamran, I agree with Isa that Star Wars is
better than Star Trek. What's Star Trek?)

The variouscartel groups in Mexico have long used the internet as a
place to trumpet their triumphs on the battlefield and to taunt and even
degrade their enemies. The cartels have posted videos of them torturing,
executing and beheading members of opposing cartels. They also
frequently monitor narco blogs and sometimeseven post on them. As
demonstrated by the blogger killings in Nuevo Laredo in September, Los
Zetas appear to possess at least some rudimentary capability to trace
online activity to people in thephysical world. It is not known if they
employ their own team of dedicated cyber experts or if they rely on
sources within the Mexican government a** although the most likely
answer is probably a little of both. [what about just old-fashioned
human intelligence? Many people discuss blogger identities both online
and offline, something they could've picked up without network-based
forensics. 'My brother blogs about...' and on from there. Or by
tracing the information the blogger had in the real world, and
eventually getting back to the blogger]

Tristan was talking about how the cartels were even kidnapping computer
science students and forcing them to track anonymous down. Need to check
with him on specifics though

In past Anonymous actions, like the Dec. 2010 attack against Pay Pal
following the Wikileaks case, governments in the U.S. and the UK have
arrested numerous individuals associated with Anonymous who allegedly
participated in the attack. In June 2011, Turkey arrested dozens of
activists associated with Anonymousactions conducted against the Turkish
government for its efforts to establish a national internet filtering
system. [Need something to make a point here, maybe something like:]
The reality is that there is no such thing as anonymity, on the internet
or otherwise. Any action leaves some trail, whether digitial or
physical. In the same way that hackers from Anonymous develop exploits
to access confidential information, law enforcement agencies and even
cartels could get around encryption, examine patterns of activity and
investigate leads that in the end identify a real person behind a

Los Zetas, like the other Mexican cartels, do not take affronts lightly.
Even if Anonymous is not able to provide information that will damage
Los Zetas smuggling operations, the very fact that this group has
decided to challenge Los Zetas publicly will result in some sort of
response. The big question is: do theypossess the capability to
effectively trace the organizers of the Anonymousaction against them?

One problem with an entity such as Anonymous is that it is intentionally
amorphous a** it is also as transnational as the internet, and it would
not be surprising if many of those chosen to participate in the
operation against Los Zetas are located outside of Mexico in locations
such as the U.S. and Europe which are outside the immediate reach of Los
Zetas.(the US is not out of reach, at least not on the border:

But the amorphous nature of Anonymous can also cut the other way. If
Los Zetas pick up and execute some random patrons from an internet cafe,
behead them and place Guy Fawkesmasks on their heads, it will be very
difficult to prove that they were not associated with Anonymous. As
Anonymous noted in their Oct. 31 video, this is dangerous business.(it
would certainly be within the cartel's capacity to kill innocents and
blame anonymous in the attempt to intimidate them into stopping their

The Big Picture

One thing to watch as the Anonymous operation continues is the way in
which the Mexican public reacts. Many people in the Mexican middle and
upper classes have been deeply affected by the criminal cartels and
theviolence the practice. We talk to many people in Mexico who are
fearful of being kidnapped. In many communities, especially places like
Juarez, Torreon, Monterrey and Veracruz, businessmen are being caught in
a terrible bind. On one hand, they are receiving ever-increasing
extortion demands from the cartels, while at the same time their
business revenues are dwindling because people are afraid to go out due
to the violence associated with those same cartels. This is forcing many
businessmen[enterprises?] out of business. It is also creating a great
deal of frustration and resentment.

At the same time, Mexico has become one of the most dangerous countries
in the world for journalists, and many media organizations practice
heavy self-censorship to protect themselves. In the wake of the
September blogger killings some of the narco blogs, like Blog del Narco,
have also exhibited strong signs of fear inspired self-censorship.
This means that the legitimate press is not able to be of any real aid
to the Mexican people.

Mexican citizens are also frustrated with their government, which is
well-known for corruption. This is the sentiment feeding Anonymousa**
original campaign in Veracruz. This frustration has lead some people to
begin to talk about

vigilante groups to fight the cartels a** though that has been attempted
before in Mexico and as we saw in the case of [link
] La Familia MichoacA!n, which originally began as such a vigilante
group, vigilantism frequently does not end well.

This is where Anonymous may fit in. With Mexican citizens unable to rely
on their government, the media or even armed vigilante groups for
assistance, they may embrace Anonymous and come to view its form of
cyber vigilantism as an outlet for their frustration -- and a perceived
safe way to pass oninformation pertaining to cartel activities. If this
occurs, we may see people not just in Veracruz and other Zeta controlled
areas providing information to Anonymous, but citizens from all over the

Also, in the same way that cartels leak information togovernments in an
effort to use them as weapons against their rivals, we could also very
well see groups such as the Sinaloa cartel provide information on Los
Zetas to Anonymous. This of course would provide even more reason for
Los Zetas to strike out against the activist collective.

If the Anonymous information campaign does indeed take off, and if
Anonymous is attacked by Los Zetas, the activists could resort to
releasing sensitive information to the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration in an attempt to damage Los Zetas. This would be an
incredible irony in light of the way Anonymous has viewed itself as an
opponent of the U.S. government in cases like Wikileaks. (Anonymous has
made it clear that the value they provide is a safe and private medium
through which to pass this damning information. Their stated priority is
to publicize information that people send to them. But, do they have a
way to protect their sources? They likely don't have much collective
experience in source handling. I imagine a lot of the details they get
could put their sources in serious trouble. If I were a semi-smart
Mexican who knew some super detailed information on the cartels, I would
think long and hard before handing it over to these guys. This may be a
separate piece entirely, but I think we need a discussion on source
handling and how good hackers don't necessarily make good intelligence


Sean Noonan

Tactical Analyst


T: +1 512-279-9479 A| M: +1 512-758-5967