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LatAm Minute: James Bosworth on the State of Cybersecurity in Latin America 

(Image: AP)

May 13, 2015

While virtually no one anywhere is immune from a cybersecurity threat, Latin America is a vulnerable region. “The whole developing world is less secure in many ways because there’s so much pirated software,” says risk analyst James Bosworth. An estimated 59 percent of all software installations in Latin America were unlicensed in 2013, with comparable rates for the rest of the developing world, according to one study by a global software advocacy group. In Latin America, the commercial value of pirated software is the highest in Brazil and Mexico at $2.9 and $1.2 billion, respectively, while Venezuela has the highest rate of pirated software installations at 88 percent. (The global average of 43 percent is brought down by rates of 19 percent in North America and 29 percent in Western Europe. Note: the study counts Mexico in its Latin America totals, and not in North America.)

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That means that, for example, a Windows Update patch does not go to a computer that’s running a pirated version of Windows. As Bosworth explains: “Any time there’s a server or a computer that is not being patched and not having its vulnerabilities patched, it makes both that computer and the computers around it less secure because it provides an entryway for criminals or for other cyber attacks to get in.”

Although there are some local attacks, most of the more serious cyber threats, says Bosworth, come from outside the region, in particular Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe. “Cyber threats are international,” he says, adding that data crosses borders uninhibited. While China easily leads the world in traffic for cyber attacks (it’s the source for 41 percent of all attack traffic, more than the other top ten countries combined), 3.3 percent of worldwide traffic originates in Brazil, which ranks sixth globally.

Mining and manufacturing sectors are some of the most vulnerable in Latin America, and mining and metals companies in particular saw a 41 percent increase in cyber attacks against their operations in 2013 from the prior year.

Hear James Bosworth May 22 in Mexico City at AQ's Spring 2015 issue launch.

Some Latin American governments are on top of it: Bosworth singles out Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico as having made good legislative progress on issues ranging from digital forensics to net neutrality. Information sharing also is critical, he says, in order for governments to be able to map out threats, share best practices, and unite security efforts. He also says the Organization of American States does an exemplary job of spearheading movement on the issue on a regional level.

In this LatAm Minute, Boz gives some perspective on what type of threats corporations in Latin America face, and how they can respond.

James Bosworth wrote about robots for Americas Quarterly’s most recent issue on technology in Latin America. He is the director of analysis for Southern Pulse, a Latin America-based risk and intelligence advisory group, and also writes about Latin American politics, economics, security, and technology issues on his site, Bloggings by boz. If you’re in Mexico City next week, you can catch Boz speaking on May 22 at the launch event for AQ’s Spring 2015 issue.