IT Guy’s Help Snares Mexican Drugs Baron
The trial of a suspected Mexican drugs baron took an unexpected turn this week after it emerged that the FBI managed to persuade the accused’s IT consultant to hand over access to his secure comms infrastructure.
IT specialist Christian Rodriguez had worked for drug lords before, and was apparently recommended by one, Colombian Jorge Cifuentes to Mexican "El Chapo" Joaquin Guzman.
Once on board, he’s said to have built a bespoke encrypted communications network for El Chapo as well as installing spyware on others’ phones so the kingpin could listen in to their conversations.
In total, it’s reported that Guzman was tracking 50 devices including those of his wife, mistress and members of the cartel, with malware known as FlexiSPY installed on brand new handsets by Rodriguez before being gifted to the individuals.
The Feds’ big break came in 2010 when, posing as a Russian mobster, an undercover agent is said to have arranged a meeting with Rodriguez where he requested a similar system.
It’s unclear how, but the FBI eventually managed to persuade the IT guy to turn informant. In 2011 he apparently moved the network servers from Canada to the Netherlands in what he claimed was a routine upgrade, whilst handing over the all-important encryption keys to the authorities.
That allowed the FBI to tap 200 VoIP phone calls in which Guzman apparently discussed major drug deals, beating up the police, and even bribing a corrupt federal police commander.
However, it’s believed the IT consultant suffered a nervous breakdown in 2013 from the stress of working for, and colluding against, his employer.
Although the story at times reads like the script of a film, it highlights the vital role technology now plays in law enforcement investigations.
However, ultimately the breakthrough was achieved via old-fashioned undercover work.
Source: Information Security Magazine