Over the past few decades, when people think of crime in South and Central America, images of drug cartels and human trafficking horrors always seem to spring to the top of people’s minds. But now, in the digital age, is a shift to illicit cyber activities on the horizon?
It seems that Latin America’s criminals are dropping into the so-called “Dark Web” to purchase malware and ransomware as the criminal tactics mostly seen in Eastern Europe, Russia and Asia, are going global.
Cybercriminals worldwide have traditionally employed code devised by the Russian and Eastern European to execute global cyberattacks. A new and enterprising group of Latin American hackers — especially in Brazil and Mexico — are writing their code and selling it around the world. With banks in Latin America ill-equipped to deal with the proliferation of new cyberattacks, criminal syndicates have begun to make them victims, and they also have an eye on targets in the United States.
These New Latin American Malware Strains are “No Amigos”
Amavaldo, which is a Brazilian Trojan that was designed to target Spanish and Portuguese banks, started attacking financial institutions in Latin America’s largest economy in 2019. It expanded its reach, however, with attacks recently reported in Mexico.
Ploutus, which is part of a Mexican family of malware, allows users to exploit ATM machines. ATM manufacturer Diebold Nixdorf said in 2018 that US authorities have warned of potential attacks in America utilizing the malware. The Organization of American States or OAS, says that Ploutus malware has also been sold to criminal groups in the US. In Colombia and Venezuela, cybercriminals use ransomware to steal information from high-level executives and then use the stolen information to blackmail them.
The effects are just beginning to be felt in a big way as OAS research suggests 92 percent of banks in Latin America reported hacks in 2018. The region’s banks collectively lost a total of $809 million in 2017 as a result of cybercrime. In 2019, in response to an increase in incidents, Brazilian authorities ordered all banks to have a cybersecurity policy.
Latin America is now poised to be the next hotbed for cybercrime. With no shortage of targets globally, and knowledge of the tactics started in faraway continents, expect the number of hacking attacks to continue to increase over the next several years.