Over half of Latin American companies suffered from cyber attacks such as malware, fraud, denial of service and phishing in 2012, according to Internet security firm ESET, highlighting the prevalence of cyber crime across the region.
By far the most commonly reported form of cyber attack was malware, which affected some 50 percent of the 3,500 Latin American companies surveyed for the ESET Security Report. Malware is used to gain access to private computer systems, disrupt operations and obtain information, usually for financial gain.
The three countries with the highest rate of reported malware infections were El Salvador (74 percent), Venezuela (71 percent) and Bolivia (67 percent). Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and the whole of Central America were also above the 50 percent mark. Reports of malware infection in Mexico, meanwhile, dramatically decreased compared with the same report a year earlier, from 82 to 41 percent.
Other popular forms of attack were exploitation of vulnerabilities (reported by 16 percent), websites taken down (15 percent), denial of service (DoS) attacks (15 percent), improper access (13 percent) and phishing (illegally obtaining financial or personal information) (13 percent).
InSight Crime Analysis
Cyber crime has become an increasingly important security concern in Latin America. Cyber attacks are often carried out for profit, with Latin American banks losing $93 million a year to phishing, and reports of Mexican criminal organizations tapping into crimes such as cloning credit cards as a new revenue source. Hacker collectives such as Anonymous, meanwhile, generally launch politically motivated cyber attacks, often on government institutions.
According to 2011 reports by other security firms, Brazilian cyber criminals are responsible for the majority of this activity in the region, while Mexico is one of the countries reported to suffer most from cyber crime.