The Feds Cracked El Chapo’s Encrypted Comms Network By Flipping His System Admin

With signs that the New York trial of notorious Mexican drug lord and alleged mass murderer Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is entering its end phase, prosecutors on Tuesday played copies of what they said were audio recordings of Guzman the FBI obtained “after they infiltrated his encrypted messaging system” with the help of Colombian and former cartel systems engineer Cristian Rodriguez, Reuters reported. Gizmodo reports: As has been previously reported by Vice, Colombian drug lord Jorge Cifuentes testified that Rodriguez had forgot to renew a license key critical to the communications network of Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel in September 2010, forcing cartel leaders to temporarily rely on conventional cell phones. Cifuentes told the court he considered Rodriguez “an irresponsible person” who had compromised their security, with a terse phone call played by prosecutors showing Cifuentes warned the subordinate he was in “charge of the system always working.”

But on Tuesday it was revealed that the FBI had lured Rodriguez into a meeting with an agent posing as a potential customer much earlier, in February 2010, according to a report in the New York Times. Later, they flipped Rodriguez, having him transfer servers from Canada to the Netherlands in a move masked as an upgrade. During that process, Rodriguez slipped investigators the network’s encryption keys. The communications system ran over Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), with only cartel members able to access it. Getting through its encryption gave authorities access to roughly 1,500 of Guzman’s and other cartel members’ calls from April 2011 to January 2012, the Times wrote, with FBI agents able to identify ones placed by the drug lord by “comparing the high-pitched, nasal voice on the calls with other recordings of the kingpin, including a video interview he gave to Rolling Stone in October 2015.”

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