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Latin America becoming newest malware hotbed

03 May 2013
Cristo Redentor statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro

Latin America and the Caribbean are seeing a surge in reports of targeted attacks, driving cyber crime in the area to unprecedented levels.

Researchers with Trend Micro reported that a series of sophisticated attacks on finance and government institutions has helped to push a 40 percent jump in cyber crime incidents in the region since last year.

According to a study, carried out with local governments and law enforcement agencies in the region, targeted attacks were on the rise and losses from cyber crime were higher than any other form of crime.

As with other parts of the world, the researchers found that popular attacks included hacktivism and targeting critical infrastructures. The study uncovered a number of incidents where industrial control systems were targeted, which makes a region in which many of its nation states are economically developing and reliant on fragile infrastructure vulnerable to a large-scale attack.

"These incidents highlight the dangers that well-coordinated attacks on critical infrastructures pose to public wellbeing and economic development," the researchers said in the report.

"While attacks involving critical infrastructures have not yet caused catastrophic losses or physical damage in the Americas and the Caribbean, they do highlight the need for vigilance and improved resilience, as many critical systems in the region remain exposed."

Latin America and the Caribbean are not alone in facing such attacks. Government systems and critical infrastructure attacks have faced developing nations and world economic leaders alike, and both state-sponsored and private groups look to steal confidential information and trade secrets.

What did raise eyebrows with researchers, however, was that so many attacks were only now being spotted in the region. The researchers noted that in many instances there were indications that the attacks had been previously occurring but were only recently spotted.

"Several governments clarified that the numbers they provided did not necessarily reflect real changes in attack frequency, but rather improvements in network monitoring and better trained personnel, which allowed organisations to detect more system breaches and other illicit cyber activities," the researchers said in the report.

"Interestingly, those countries with recently established national CSIRTs [Computer Security Incident Response Teams] reported some of the most significant increases in managed incidents."

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Shaun Nichols

Shaun Nichols is the US correspondent for He has been with the company since 2006, originally joining as a news intern at the site's San Francisco offices.

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