Supposed members of the hacker-activist collective 'Anonymous' recently threatened to go after Mexico's Zetas drug cartel, but reports now indicate that the fate of this so-called "Operation Cartel" may be in doubt.
As reported by the AP, the hacktivists' latest project was announced in a YouTube video alleging that an Anonymous member had been kidnapped by members of the cartel. According to PCMag, the unnamed individual was said to have been "kidnapped during a street-level protest named Operation Paperstorm in Veracruz, Mexico." The Register notes that the video was apparently uploaded to YouTube on October 6 but wasn't translated to English until late in October.
However, doubts have arisen over the claim's validity, and some worry about a possible backlash from the Zetas.
Following the wide distribution of the video's English-language version earlier this week, security company Stratfor assessed the risk of speaking out against the notoriously violent Zetas and the likelihood of retaliation.
We have seen reports that Los Zetas are deploying their own teams of computer experts to track those individuals involved in the online anti-cartel campaign, which indicates that the criminal group is taking the campaign very seriously. Those individuals involved face the risk of abduction, injury and death — judging by how Los Zetas has dealt with threats in the past.
On November 2, the Guardian reported that "Operation Cartel" was in "disarray."
"Two hacker members of 'Operation Cartel', which said earlier this week that it would expose members of the murderous cartel, have now indicated that they are stopping their scheme to identify collaborators and members because they don't want anyone to be killed as a result," wrote the Guardian.
The Guardian also said that some tweeters had expressed concerned about a violent retaliation as a result of "OpCartel," while others were uncertain about the unnamed kidnapping victim mentioned in the YouTube video.
If the plan is indeed still under way, Anonymous will leak data belonging to suspected Zetas collaborators--including police, journalists and taxi drivers--on November 5.
Earlier in October, the Mexican army said they had captured a Zetas lieutenant who allegedly ordered an arson attack on a casino in the city of Monterrey in August. The incident left 52 dead. Days later, the army said they had freed 61 men held by the Zetas for forced labor.
Anonymous has grabbed headlines for a high-profile hack attack against HBGary, a distributed denial of service attack against MasterCard and many other incidents against individuals, companies and government organizations around the world. Affiliates of the loose-knit hacker collective have also taken credit for attacks on websites maintained by the FBI and the CIA.
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