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Anonymous Backs Down From Mexican Cartel Hack, Kind Of

In a series of escalating threats and schemes leading up to Guy Fawkes Day, Anonymous decided that they’d like to tangle with Los Zetas, the second most powerful drug cartel in Mexico. It all started with a video threatening the cartel. Los Zetas had abducted an Anonymous affiliate during Operation Paperstorm, and the video threatened that unless said affiliate was released, Anonymous would release some data they had regarding certain Los Zetas affiliates, including some dirty cops. That was the plan, at least. Now it seems like they’re backing down. Key word: Seems.

On Sunday night, two self-identified (as they always are) Anonymous affiliates Skill3r and Glyniss Paroubek, essentially called off the attack, acknowledging that, however things played out, Operation Cartel was going to get some people killed.

“We didn’t want irresponsible administrators to condemn participants [in the Operation] to death. We’ve discussed it extensively and and we all decided to remove it.”

There are a couple of things worth digging into in that statement. It’s clear that the two are talking about potential Anonymous-side casualties, something definitely worth worrying about. According to global intelligence firm Stratfor, Los Zetas has hackers too, and guess who they were about to start hunting down. The other aspect of it though, is that if the information leaked, the people named would likely be as good as dead as well, regardless of guilt. Whether Los Zetas decided to clean up potentially messy contacts, or another cartel started gunning for Los Zetas’ infastructure, being named in that release wouldn’t be good at all, regardless of actual guilt.

The other thing worth addressing is the bit about how they all decided to remove it. Come on everybody, sigh with me. The issue is that they didn’t, mainly because they can’t. By this point, we’re all painfully aware of Anonymous’ fluid, amorphous structure. It almost hurts to see Anonymous affiliates still talking like they have any semblance of control over the entire mass of hackers who operate under that banner. I probably don’t have to tell you, but not everyone decided this shouldn’t go down. There is still some pretty vocal support for the project, but is it anyone who matters? At this point, it’s impossible to tell.

The whole thing reminds me a lot of the whole Operation Facebook panic, which had almost the exact same recipe. Let me lay out the parellels here. In both cases:

  • Anonymous affiliates pick a high profile target for Guy Fawkes Day
  • The media latches onto it
  • Some different Anonymous affiliates go “whoa, whoa, whoa, let’s back it up a little.”
  • Everyone suddenly remembers how Anonymous works, except for the people who don’t
  • People argue about whether or not the operation has been cancelled until it happens or doesn’t
  • Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Granted, the stakes here are a little bit higher; for the first time, Anonymous might actually be playing with human lives. The whole situation just lays bare the mechanism by which these guys work. It’s almost like reddit. If your Op gets enough upvotes, bam, it’s real, but you can’t just pull the plug after getting the faceless masses involved. It’s easy to get a ball rolling throughout an entire system of fractured, unnamed, undecyperable, sub-communities, but it’s pretty hard to stop it. At the very least, it’s impossible to tell if something has been called off until the other shoe fails to drop. Has enough of Anonymous abandoned plans to leak Los Zetas’ information? We’ll only know after November 5th has come and gone.

(via Idealab 1 and 2)

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