Thursday, March 1, 2012

In Arrest Sweep, Interpol Targets Latin America Anonymous Hackers

Interpol infiltrated a group linked to hacking collective Anonymous, leading to the arrests of some 25 people in South America and Europe, members of the hacker movement said Wednesday. According to Interpol, “Operation Unmask” was carried out in coordination with law enforcement agencies in Spain, Colombia, Argentina, and Chile. The operation was intended to target those involved in the April 2011 cyber attack against the website of the Colombian Defense Ministry, as well as the May 2011 attack against Chilean electricity company Endesa, and the August 2011 attack against the Chilean national library.

Those arrested include at least 10 people in Argentina and at least five in Chile, the Associated Press reports. According to Chilean media, there were six detainees, including one Colombian, three high school students, and two college students. The oldest of them is 23 years old. There is little detail on the profiles of those arrested in Argentina, other than the arrests took place in three cities, Clarin says.

Activists reportedly linked to Anonymous said that Interpol made use of “spies and informants” in order to identify and arrest the 25 suspects. They added that the detainees were “careless” and “unsophisticated hackers,” in the words of the AP. The detainees reportedly participated in rather simple cyber attacks which did not cause lasting damage to the websites, but would take them offline temporarily. Notably, after the arrests were announced, the Interpol website was reportedly down Tuesday evening in what may have been a revenge hack, according to the LA Times.

Anonymous launched a number of cyber attacks in Latin America last year. Most were denial of service attacks, in which hackers overwhelm a website with data requests. Hacker group LulzSec took down the website of the Brazilian government and Petrobras, the state-run energy company. Colombia saw attacks against now-defunct intelligence agency the DAS; the websites of the presidency and the Ministry of Justice were also targeted. Most of the attacks claimed a political cause, such as the attacks against Chilean institutions in August, which declared support for the student protest movement.

News Briefs

  • The Associated Press reports on the largest protest registered against President Michel Martelly since he took office last year. The news agency quotes some protesters who express support for the still-popular former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who, according to an unsubstantiated rumor, is about to be “investigated” by the Martelly administration on criminal charges. "If the government plans to arrest him, we're going to burn the country down,” one protestor told the AP. Discontent with the Martelly administration appears to explain this outpouring of support for Aristide. It may also explain the rising popularity of one theory which claims Martelly holds a double nationality, which would bar him from office. Foreign Policy takes a look at the conspiracy theory.
  • After surgery, President Hugo Chavez tweeted that he is “soaring like a condor,” the BBC reports. New analysis from the AP speculates on what his health problems mean for Venezuela’s political future, noting that his more radical brother Adan and National Assembly leader Diosdada Cabello are his most likely successors. Elsewhere, McClatchy shares a link to the hacked Stratfor e-mails, compiled by WikiLeaks, which suggests that doctors from four different countries are involved in treating Chavez’s condition. And from blog the Devil’s Excrement, a critical look at the relationship between Chavez and the media since the news emerged of his worsening health.
  • An op-ed from the LA Times recounts “the biggest bust in history,” in which US and Mexico agents found 21.5 tons of cocaine and $12 million in cash in a Mexican warehouse in 1989. But as the op-ed points out, the unforeseen impact of the bust actually changed the dynamics of cocaine smuggling forever. After the loss, the Cali Cartel agreed to start paying its Mexican partners partly in the product, not with cash, which helped create the wealthy and powerful Mexican syndicates still in play today.
  • El Nuevo Herald with another report based on the hacked Stratfor e-mails released by WikiLeaks, stating that President Chavez’s worsening health is deepening the power rifts in the Venezuelan military.
  • The AP with a feature and photo essay on Brazilian squatters in unused buildings in Sao Paulo, describing it as the urban version of Brazil’s “landless” movement, which sees unoccupied land “invaded” by the rural poor.
  • Foreign Policy with interesting analysis on the “soft power” diplomacy practiced by Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and her foreign minister, Antonio Patriota. The article argues that the two are pushing for a “revolutionary” kind of multilateralism in global organizations like the UN Security Council and the World Bank, in attempting to reduce the traditional role played by the US.
  • Guatemala’s vice president has asked Panamian President Ricardo Martenilli to discuss the decriminalization of drugs, AFP reports. Elsewhere, the Atlantic examines the rising demand among Central American leaders to debate drug policy, and concludes that legalization is unlikely to lead to any benefits in the region.
  • From the Texas Observer, an interesting and well-reported look at how the drug trade has affected one small town in Mexico’s Juarez valley.
  • In a sign of the worsening relationship between the United Kingdom and Argentina over the Falklands Islands dispute, Argentina has now asked companies to stop importing products from the UK, the Wall Street Journal reports.

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