Infiltration of Chile Air Force Emails Highlights LatAm Cyber Threats

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A group of hackers from Peru has infiltrated email accounts from Chile’s Air Force containing sensitive information on strategic weapons, underscoring Latin Amercia’s vulnerability to cyber crime.

On August 14, the Chilean Air Force (FACH) confirmed that two of its institutional email accounts had been infiltrated, days after Peruvian hacker group Lulz Security Peru took responsibility for the attack on its Twitter account (see below), reported El Mostrador. The FACH told El Mostrador the institution first noticed the breach in May 2013 and took immediate security measures.

Although the FACH claimed the information in the emails did not pose a risk to national security, El Mostrador reported that one of the infiltrated accounts belonged to the logistical command’s Department of Contract Administration and contained information on negotiations with various international defense companies. Emails between the FACH and an Israeli defense company, for example, revealed information on strategic weapons as well as improvements made on a fleet of F-16 fighter planes.

Lulz Security Peru stated in a message that the cyber attack was revenge for a 2009 incident in which Chilean hackers posted a painting depicting the War of the Pacific — which the two countries fought in the late 1800s — on a Peruvian government website.

InSight Crime Analysis

The public report of this cyber attack comes amid growing concern about the region’s vulnerability to cyber crime. Last week, the Police Community of the Americas (Ameripol) announced the creation of a regional cyber security center to evaluate threats and provide support to law enforcement bodies. Several Latin American countries have also recently updated their criminal codes or created special security units to address this issue. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Cyber Crime

The FACH is far from the only Chilean government institution to fall prey to cyber attacks. According to the website Zone-H — which reports on hackers — Lulz Security Peru has also attacked the websites of Chile’s Justice Ministry and the Army’s Non-Commissioned Officer School. Additionally, the hacker group “Anonymous” has infiltrated Chile’s national library and Ministry of Education websites, as well as the website of Colombia’s former intelligence agency and the Facebook page of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.   

These cyber attacks highlight the potential political and security concerns hacking presents, but many cyber criminals have financial motives. In 2013, Colombia and Brazil were among the top 10 countries in the world for economic losses from phishing — the online theft of financial or personal information — which cost both countries close to one hundred million dollars (pdf). Meanwhile, a cyber crime scheme discovered in Brazil in July this year targeted around $3.9 billion in online transactions and is believed to be the largest electronic theft case ever reported. 

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