Peru's Hackers Infiltrate State Networks

Peruvian government barely escapes no-confidence vote after revelatory emails

LulzSec Peru are a pair of Peruvian hackers who have hacked military, police, and other government networks and websites from Chile to Venezuela. This includes Peru’s Ministry of the Interior, where they exposed 3,500 emails, some of which show influence peddling between members of the oil and fishing industries and government ministers. These government emails resulted in an uproar and a vote of no confidence in the Peruvian cabinet, which survived the ordeal by one vote.

LulzSecPeru is the Peruvian version of Lulz Security, a group of US and UK hackers who have largely gone silent since 2011, after such exploits as hacking into the Sony Playstation user database and an FBI-affiliated website landed many of their members in jail.

But LulzSec Peru is very much active. The Peruvian press says LulzSec Peru (Their name means “laughable security.”) is affiliated with Anonymous, but the Associated Press (AP) says that Anonymous has only help promote the exploits; the LulzSecPeru hackers are decidedly Peruvian, and have done this hacking on their own.

Among their most notable exploits, LulzSecPeru took over the Twitter account of Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro and his ruling Socialist Party during the presidential elections last year.

Their most potentially damaging exploits include infiltrating Peru’s top level domain and publish the passwords of users of that site, including (Google Peru). The Associated Press says they also hacked into the Peruvian CERT network emergency center at and the website of the national police, www.­pnp.­gob.­pe

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(In the graphic above, where they boast about hacking CERT, the hackers are saying they have provided free Wi-Fi across Peru. That is an exaggeration as what they have done is help spread the technique of how to hack wireless access points of the cable companies.)

The AP says the hackers have hacked military, police and government networks in Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Venezuela and Peru. The group says it has left backdoors in these networks and claims to still have access to the network of the Chilean air force, where they stole and then leaked documents, such as those on military purchases.

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The hackers crow about their accomplishments on their Twitter site.

An AP reporter chatted online with one of the hackers. The hacker, calling himself Cyber-Rat, told the AP that he is a 17 years old and will quit hacking before becoming an adult, where he could face eight years in jail if he is caught and tried under Peru’s cybercrime laws. His partner goes by the name Desh501. The AP says he is between 19 and 23. So far their real identities are still secret.

While these hackers have shown either great skill at hacking or the weak security of government systems, it is their invasion of the Peruvian Ministry of Interior that has caused the greatest political upheaval.

The two hackers planted software in the Ministry to capture network traffic there and transfer it to their command and control site.  This is how they snagged the password for the Gmail account of then Prime Minister René Cornejo, the blog El Utero reported. While this is a personal email, the Prime Minister was using that address heavily to discuss government business and received mails there from other officials who were using their government email addresses.

Having obtained the GMail password, LulzSecPeru downloaded and published 3,500 of these mails online. The Peruvian press is calling the corruption scandal from the revelations of the 3,500 emails CornejoLeaks

The public interest group OjoPúblico (Public Eye) pored over these emails to find the most damaging. Among those, an attorney for the sardine fishing industry sent an email in July to the Minister of Economy and Finance, Luis Miguel Castilla, and re-sent it to René Cornejo who was prime minister at that time. In that email, the attorney asked that the fishing season, set by scientists at the Ocean Institute of Peru, be extended. The quota for anchovies, sardine and jurel is tightly controlled along the Pacific Coast of South America as the fisheries have been depleted by overfishing. There have been violent protests by small fisherman as they assail the awarding of the bulk of the quotas to the large commercial fleets. The attorney who wrote the email to the ministers is a law office partner with the sister of Minister Castilla. Eight days after she sent the mail, the season was extended.   

These emails also show the influence of the oil industry over the energy minister, who is now under investigation. They see the energy minister arguing with the environmental minister, saying that industry technicians and not government regulators are better suited to determine whether environmental impact studies are needed in order to drill exploratory wells. In Peru, as elsewhere, there is an approval process for new mining and oil drilling projects: environmental impact statements and input from the public are required parts of that process.

The crisis in Peru is over the nature of lobbying, and whether it is legal at all.

Regarding the emails, El Commercio newspaper says, “The infiltration of the emails of René Cornejo has brought lobbying activities under the magnifying glass.” The newspaper says, “The revelation of these emails suggests that entrepreneurs and business decisively influence what the government does.”

They also report that a 2003 law in Peru establishes the right to lobby, but that few people know about the law. Lobbying is permitted when done by those who are registered as lobbyists. But since few are aware of the law, few are registered. So there is not the transparency the law was meant to deliver and this has facilitated corruption, or the appearance of corruption.

Asked about the influence of lobbyists, the current Prime Minister Ana Jara said, "The lobbies have no place in this administration or this government."

Because of the lobbying revealed by CornejoLeaks and the resulting confusion about the law and the investigation of the energy minister, the newspaper says, “Government officials now fear meeting with businessmen ... since that could be considered by the politicians to be a criminal act.”

To clarify the political situation in Peru, the country has no Prime Minster per se, as in the British sense of the word, although in Peru they use the title Prime Minister. Ana Lara is Presidencia del Consejo de Ministros (PCM) or President of the Council of Ministers. Peru is governed by a President, Ollanta Humala. His approval rating is hovering around 25%. He was elected as a leftist, with support of the poor, but turned toward the center and business once he came to power. In true South American fashion, his wife holds considerable power in the government. Her influence caused the parliament to reject the cabinet he appointed in March. The first lady is likely to succeed Humala as president. LulzSecPeru mocked this relationship: when they defaced the President’s website they put a cartoon there of the president clinging to her legs for support.


Walker Rowe is a US citizen living and working in Santiago, Chile. There he edits the online magazine and is currently writing a book about the pollution of the coast of Chile.