The first thing that popped into my mind was that most people purporting to be narcos will always use top of the line phones, usually iPhones. As cool as these things are, they are remarkably easy to poke full of holes if you’ve got the right toolset, just like governments do. That’s even before the arrest of a narco leads to government having physical possession of the device, and as we all know once someone has that, all bets are off.
It is specifically mentioned they were using satellite phones, all the more to avoid monitoring by Mexican carriers who deny any kind of monitoring takes place, but is widely rumored to be happening on a national scope. These phones are made for durability and reliability, not security, so the extraction of data was probably even easier.
The narco adoration of bling (their version of it) with expensive electronics (phones, computers, televisions, cars) is proving to be costing them victories, specially because most of the time they simply don’t know how how to use them.
Most of these people did not get any form of higher education. If they did, they did not learn how to use the technologies available to them properly. If they do know how to use it, they will usually stick to the most basic form of usage, as they do not care to learn more. Advanced functions like encryption would simply be done away with due to usage complexity.
Any sort of advanced usage would necessarily lead to the need of having a proper IT support staff, even if it’s just the one guy who fixes cartel computers. Having precisely such a thing would be completely out of the question, as then someone would have far more knowledge about a cartel’s operations than even the top boss does.
Another, more important factor, is ego. These people see themselves as guys who get stuff done, who want to be where the action is. To be left behind in a support role on a permanent basis is, put simply, inconceivable to them. Internal cartel divisions have started precisely because of this.
Hopefully now that el Chapo is back in custody, things will calm down… although it is very unlikely. One can only hope for the best.