Radio Zeta

by wjw on January 11, 2012

The Zetas, Mexico’s ultra-violent drug cartel, is now reported as having their own encrypted radio net.

Since 2006, the cartels have maintained an encrypted DIY radio network that stretches across nearly all 31 Mexican states, even down south into Guatemala. The communications infrastructure of the narco-gangs that have turned Mexico into a gangster’s paradise consists of “professional-grade” radio antennas, signal relays and simple handheld radios that cost “millions of dollars” — and which the Mexican authorities haven’t been able to shut down.

Communications technology is now very cheap.  And even if it weren’t, the Zetas have a lot of money.

Constant readers may remember my link back in June to an ad-hoc Internet being constructed in Afghanistan, where tin cans and baling wire are being used to build working receivers that cost less than $3 US.   The American government is funding these efforts on the theory that they can keep communications safe from the Taliban.

As I commented at the time, “this is a project with ‘blowback’ written all over it.”

Not that the blowback includes the Zetas.  They’re former GAFE, Mexican Special Forces, who once fought traffickers but defected to the dark side.  Presumably they already knew how to establish secure communications.

I figure in a few years we’re going to see darknets and dark internets proliferate in a completely insane way.  People already claim that the dark internet is several times larger than the internet we can see.    Already darknets are used by reasonably legitimate businesses for private trading and information exchange.   Pedophiles use darknets for their own purposes.  Spamming attacks routinely originate somewhere in the deep web,  and P2P file sharers move a lot of their traffic along darkened Internet alleyways.

With Western governments getting more and more insane about copyright protection, and authoritarian governments building their Great Walls, the inclination to bypass all that is going to grow.  What happens when a significant portion of the world’s economy goes underground, where it can’t be traced or taxed?

There’s certainly an argument that this has happened already.

Want to see what it’s like underground?  Here are instructions for setting up your very own darknet.

And here’s Freenet, the software that can make you invisible to anyone monitoring the internet.

Now that you know these secrets, you must remember to use these powers only for good.

Ralf The Dog. January 11, 2012 at 5:56 am

The PGP algorithm is now an open standard. Writing your own encryption software is beyond the capability of a neurologically challenged three year old after he is coming off of a five day bender, but not by much.

If any criminal organization wants unbreakable security for their communications, they can have it without much trouble.

John Appel January 12, 2012 at 12:53 pm

By the way, have you ever noticed that a significant number of TOR nodes are located in… northern Virginia? Gee, I wonder why that might be. Can’t have anything to do with the massive number of Fed contractors down there, no…

DensityDuck January 12, 2012 at 8:49 pm

And if you think those TOR nodes aren’t sending their traffic right over to Fort Hood, then you’ve got another think coming.


“the darknet is much larger than the internet we can see” Ho, ho, ho. Just like those phantom “music sales lost to piracy”. Unquantifiable by any possible means–but trust us, it’s huge.

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