Hacker group Anonymous has called off an attack against Mexico’s Zetas drug cartel, after the cartel began hiring their own hackers to hunt down Anonymous memebers.
Security company Stratfor warned Anonymous members that deaths would likely result from the mission, dubbed #OpCartel.
Anonymous members questioned the operation’s premise, alleging it sought to avenge a kidnapping that never took place. The official #OpCartel video claimed Zetas nabbed a hacker in Veracruz, but provided no evidence of the abduction.
The hacker group’s offensive against Zetas originally threatened to publish the identities of the cartel’s members as well as unmask police, politicians and even cab drivers in collusion with the gang on November 5. Those exposed would have been killed by rival cartels or by Zetas itself as a precautionary measure.
Zetas is known for its violent tactics, having murdered several thousand people, including those who tweeted or posted online against the group. The cartel regularly dumps bodies on roadsides with notes warning others will suffer a similar fate if they denounce Zetas.
Some Anonymous members still advocate for targeting Zetas, but most agree the human costs are too high to carry out #OpCartel.
Huge risks aside, Anonymous’ decision to scrap #OpCartel is an unusual one, given the collective’s penchant for carrying off large-scale, often provocative hacks.
The collective’s members regularly risk arrest with their high-profile attacks on organizations and governments they deem repressive of free speech.
Turkey arrested 32 Anonymous hackers for their part in online attacks after the country announced plans to clamp down on the Internet. Hackers in Egypt, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries have faced persecution for their anti-government activities.
The Obama administration’s proposed policy aims to extend prison time to 20 years for hackers who endanger national security and 10 years for those who steal data, on top of increased fines.
Anonymous members, then, risk time behind bars as well as financial security when they infiltrate networks. But Anonymous members in prison can live to hack another day. Zetas, however, is not known for its clemency, making Anonymous’ decision to avoid the cartel a possibly wise move.