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OAS Report Examines Cybersecurity Trends in the Americas

  May 3, 2013

The Organization of American States (OAS) through the Secretariat of Multidimensional Security (SMS) and the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) released today the report “Latin American and Caribbean Cybersecurity Trends and Government Responses.” Prepared in collaboration with the company Trend Micro, the report illustrates and analyzes cybersecurity and cybercrime trends in the region. The document contains detailed information on cyberthreats in the Americas, and for the first time incorporates the perspectives and experiences of OAS Member State governments.

The Secretary General of the OAS, Jose Miguel Insulza, affirmed that “this research responds to the needs of regional governments to confront cybercrime, which is increasingly frequent and threatening, due to the accelerating evolution of technology.” He added that “to evaluate and effectively combat cyber threats, countries need detailed and reliable threat information, which this report provides. It represents a significant advance, considering that a study like this has not yet been carried out in our region. 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.”

The report found an overall increase in cyber attacks; an increase in “hacktivism,” or politically motivated hacking; internet-assisted money laundering; and attacks against critical infrastructure. Other trends discussed include levels of malware, spam, and wire fraud.

Conclusions highlighted in the report signal a pressing need to “maintain parity with those seeking to exploit digital vulnerabilities.” The lack of resources dedicated to building cybersecurity capacity and the scarcity of specialized knowledge and experience needed to secure networks and implement effective policies are two of the things that the report cites as hindering information security.

In its conclusions, the report contends that “organized crime groups are increasingly cyber-capable and hacker groups are growing in number and sophistication.” The activity of internet users in the region is also discussed. They often practice unsafe online habits, such as running unpatched operating systems or using unsecured mass storage devices. Overall, most internet users pay little attention to cybersecurity. Finally, the document discusses cybercriminals’ use of banking trojans as opposed to malware that predominates in other parts of the world.

In its recommendations, the report urges countries to promote raising awareness of safe cyber practices; promoting and investing in technical education programs; strengthening mechanisms to designate governmental roles and responsibilities related to cybersecurity; and instituting norms for international information sharing and cooperation on cybersecurity and cybercrime issues.

As opposed to previous reports on cyber activity in the Americas, the OAS and Trend Micro report and analysis incorporates the perspectives and experiences of OAS Member State governments. The OAS invited its Member States to contribute qualitative and quantitative information to the report regarding instances of hacking, cybercrime, and government efforts. 20 out of 32 Latin American and Caribbean Member States responded to the request to provide information. Trend Micro gathered technical data on malicious web traffic and hacking trends.

The Secretary of Multidimensional Security of the OAS, Adam Blackwell, said that the report “presents an opportunity for governments to showcase what types of initiatives have been successful in mitigating cyber risk. Ultimately, the insights and analysis that came from my team’s extensive research will provide a valuable resource to those working to secure our vital networks. I would finally like to highlight that this joint effort represents the type of public-private cooperation that our Member States have recognized as pivotal to achieve sustainable hemispheric security.”

The Vice President of Cyber Security of Trend Micro, Tom Kellermann, also highlighted some of the key findings of the report. “Latin America and the Caribbean regions are experiencing rapid technological adoption. But with this evolution comes the dark side of globalization - cybercrime.” He added that, “this seminal report depicts the growth of web based attacks as well as the use of online forums for hosting and money laundering. Achieving sustainable economic growth in the region will be dependent upon a concerted regional effort to strengthen cybersecurity and combat cybercrime."

Protection against cyberthreats has become a major security concern worldwide. Since 2004, the OAS through the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism has worked to develop and enhance the capabilities of Member States to prevent and combat threats to cybersecurity at the national and regional levels. More information about OAS cyber security efforts is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-173/13