NARCOS and HACKERS: "ALLIANCES in the OSCURITO" of the NETWORKS and CRIMINALS ... seeking greater profits and minimal risks.

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NARCOS and HACKERS: "ALLIANCES in the OSCURITO" of the NETWORKS and CRIMINALS ... seeking greater profits and minimal risks.


In 2011, the important European port of Antwerp, mysteriously began to disappear containers. The administrators hired an Israeli security agency for the investigation.

The Magal S3 agency reported that the security systems had been hacked by a criminal organization that began using the port to introduce drugs into cargoes that allegedly were bananas from South America.

The port reinforced its security systems, but the criminals did not give up and managed to install wireless bridges to break the systems and open a direct access to the operating system.

The hacking allowed the criminal organization to locate each container with drugs to introduce it through the so-called "Puerta de Europa". Behind this operation was a Mexican cartel, according to information that Europol shared with the company Kaspersky.

It was never known which criminal organization had been behind this operation, which took two years of investigation and was made public in June 2013, through a statement that the authorities had arrested 12 suspects, confiscated 1,044 kilos of cocaine and 1,099 kilos of heroin.

The port of Antwerp, where the hacking of a Mexican cartel was discovered. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The news, published in 2015 by Mexican journalist Hiroshi Takahashi in the Forbes magazine, was soon long in public attention. However, it opened the door to a territory still little known in Mexico about the alliance formed by drug traffickers with hackers.

Seduced by money or forcedly recruited, hackers are targeted by drug traffickers, and they are at risk, warned Dmitri Bestuzhev, director for Latin America of the Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT) of Kaspersky Lab.

Bestuzhev reported that Mexican drug cartels were recruiting young hackers to clone cards and launder money. "This happens because the cyber crime business grows every year and it is moving a lot of money in this sphere."

Now, he warned, "the local police in each country have to protect the informatics from being recruited for criminal purposes."

Engaged with deception

In Mexico, in 2010, there was a case that opened the curtain to the risk faced by young experts in information technology.

That year, Fernando Ernesto Villegas Álvarez, whom his friends called "El Güero", was arrested in Acapulco in an operation of the Federal Police, accused of organized crime and other crimes.

This young man, recently graduated from the Computer Systems Engineering career at the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN), with tricks, he said, took him to the mouth of the wolf: the den in Acapulco of drug dealer Édgar Valdez Villarreal, "La Barbie ", a key piece of the Beltrán Leyva brothers cartel.

Édgar Valdez Villarreal, "The Barbie". (Photo: AP)

It all started one day in February 2010, when "El Güero" met Moisés Arturo Zárate, a master's student at the Computer Research Center (CIC) of the IPN, who invited him to join a newly formed company of "frozen "(water of frozen flavor in plastic packaging that is sold in Mexico as candy).

They offered him a salary of 10,000 pesos a month, a schedule from 10 in the morning to 6 in the afternoon and the possibility of working some days from home. "El Güero" accepted.

There was nothing in those offices that would make him suspect something murky. However, at the end of July 2010, one of the partners of the company, named Luis Barrios, offered him an extra 10,000 pesos for a technical support job he had to do for three days in Acapulco.

Arriving at the well-known tourist port of Guerrero, Fernando knew that technical support had been requested by "La Barbie".

The drug dealer wanted the young man to check his Sony Vaio laptop, install wireless networks, open a Skype account and email 4.

For three days "El Güero" worked in a house located at number 47 of the exclusive Brisas Marqués subdivision, where he was detained on Wednesday, July 28 during a Federal Police operation.

He had wanted to return to Mexico City a few days before, but his boss Luis Barrios prevented him. "You can not go back, you have already committed to working with Mr. (La Barbie) and you have to stay until the job is finished," the young man told the Deputy Attorney General for Specialized Investigation in Organized Crime, a day after his apprehension.

Despite the efforts of his family and friends, "El Güero" was detained in the federal prison of Perote, accused of organized crime, carrying weapons for the exclusive use of the Army, crimes against health and whatever, reported in his At the moment the Attorney General's Office in a statement.

The federals had declared before the Public Prosecutor's Office that Fernando had been detained with a grenade in his hand, along with three other men, in a BMW van armed with license plates of the State of Mexico, which was circulating on a main avenue in Acapulco.

A month later, the authorities detained "La Barbie" in Mexico City. But the life of "El Güero" never became the same again.

Intermediate head

InfoSec, a US institute focused on the training and analysis of cybersecurity, detailed in a document that has increased the interest of the cartels to ally with cybercrime and obtain higher profits for minimal risks.

"These bands lack technical knowledge so they could turn to experienced programmers to enter the world of hackers," the document cites.

In Mexico, the case of a hacker linked to the Sinaloa Cartel gained particular relevance because, thanks to him, the authorities were able to detain Dámaso López Núñez, "El Licenciado", in May 2017.

Dámaso López Núñez in his encounter with the hacker who recorded it.

The narco chief had contacted the hacker two years ago to intervene in the networks of the Federal Center for Social Readaptation No. 1 of the Altiplano, where Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán was being held and from where he escaped through a tunnel in 2015.

Interviewed by Vice in May of 2017, already as a protected witness after filtering the authorities photographs and videos of the "Licenciado", the hacker narrated that after the definitive arrest of "Chapo", in 2016, Dámaso Núñez "asked him to set up a false viral campaign on social networks to discredit "the four sons of Guzmán and assume he and his son control the Sinaloa Cartel.

The Mexican authorities checked these statements when receiving from the hacker screenshots of several false entries of a blog, which had been shared through Facebook, including an image that shows the administration console of that page.

The hacker had contacted the PGR through an email in which he offered information to detain Dámaso López Núñez and later sent them an attachment with the screenshots of the campaign against the children of the "Chapo".

In July 2016, the hacker met "El Licenciado" at a seafood restaurant in Mexico City, where he was able to record it with his cell phone using spyware called Spy Camera OS.

The hacker also sent the PGR images of the car he was driving in Mexico City and other details of his location. The authorities finally had a recent image of the drug trafficker, which would help in his arrest. This happened almost a year later, on May 2, 2017.

The apartment building where "El Licenciado" was arrested. (Photo: Reuters)

Since then, this hacker is under the protection of the Mexican authorities, who increasingly face the cybernetic power of drug traffickers, allies with hackers who work for them.

From the stalking of drug trafficking to hackers has also warned the United Nations (UN), in its World Drug Report 2017 .

There he described that criminal organizations or narcomenudistas were resorting to hackers and the use of bitcoins for transactions and buying and selling of drugs through the darknet or dark network of internet.

It is hardly a niche, warned the UN, but the business tends to grow and expand the domains of organized crime in cyberspace.