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Financial cyber crimes on rise in Latin America, Caribbean

Cyber criminals, looking for new markets to exploit, have found a lucrative home in Latin America and the Caribbean.

A new report by the Organization of American States and Trend Micro Inc., discovered the region is experiencing a rise in cyber attacks and "hacktivism" or politically motivated hacking, Internet-based money laundering and attacks against governments, banks and utilities.

The criminal underground in Latin America has become tech savy and in many cases, can easily work around governments and banks, according to the report, "Latin American and Caribbean Cybersecurity Trends and Government Responses." 

This is the first study of its kind in the region, using information from 13 or 18 Latin American countries in the OAS and seven from the Caribbean, noted Jose Miguel Insulza, the OAS secretary general.

There has been about a 26 per cent rise in cyber attacks in 2011-2012, the report said.

"Organized crime now utilizes modern technology and in certain cases these criminals have more resources at their disposal than countries can dedicate to scientific development. We need to change this," Insulza said in a statement.

The types of crimes listed range from simple to sophisticated. At least two governments reported cyber-attack campaigns when they tried to introduce new laws to strengthen copyright enforcement and reform the tax system. Spyware was found on law enforcement computers in one country and many states said traditional organized crime syndicates are now using the Internet to extort and launder money, the report said.

Banking trojans, or computer programs used to gain access to account holders, are also being used by the crime syndicates throughout certain OAS states, the report said.

"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," the report stated.

Tanya Talaga is the Star's global economics reporter. Follow her on Twitter @tanyatalaga


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