The kidnapping of data is growing rapidly in Latin America, especially in Brazil and Mexico, countries that have reported the highest number of victims of this week’s global cyber attack in the region, experts told Efe.
“Among the countries most affected are Mexico, which ranked fourth in the world in terms of the number of victims, and Brazil, the sixth,” said Dmitry Bestuzhev, Director of Research for Latin America at Kaspersky Lab, one of the largest computer security companies in the world, while talking about the “WannaCry” attack.
The attack, which began May 12 and exploited a vulnerability in the Windows operating system, affected 200,000 computers in 150 countries using “ransomware” to encrypt the victim’s digital data. The files are held as “hostages” until a redemption is paid to unlock them.
In the case of “WannaCry,” hackers demanded payments in the Bitcoin digital currency to restore access to computers. According to Kaspersky records, as of Monday, 236 victims had made the ransom payment.
“The problem is to pay,” ransomware “grows because people pay. Unfortunately, companies or users have succumbed to this, which increases the risk because it motivates criminals,” Efe told the director of Engineering for Latin America and the Caribbean of Symantec, Sebastian Brenner.
Symantec, another global leader in cybersecurity and this week presented the report “Threats to Internet Security” in Bogotá. The document points out that the United States remains the country with the most registered cases of ransomware in the world, with 34% of the total. In addition, 64% of American victims end up paying the ransom.
The US is followed by Japan, with 9% of the total cases. Italy followed, with 7%, followed by Canada and India, with 4%, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, all with 3%. In Latin America, Brazil leads the list (1.4%), followed by Mexico (1.2%), Argentina (0.3%), Chile (0.29%) and Colombia (0.1%).
Bestuzhev expressed concern about the growth of the phenomenon in the region and stressed that Mexico and Brazil are at the top of the spread of this threat.
“It’s definitely easier for a cyber-attacker to attack a person than a company that has more security barriers,” said Brenner.
The Kaspersky expert agrees. “Even if it sounds like an old song, the attack would not have been that large if the victims had protected their equipment,” Bestuzhev said.
“The security patch to prevent the ‘WannaCry’ mass attack was available since March when Microsoft released an update of its operating systems. It took two months, and companies and users did not install it,” he warned.
According to Kaspersky data, one in five companies worldwide suffered a “ransomware” attack. In 2016, 32% of the victims paid the ransom. Another 67% lost some of the data they had sequestered.
“The ball is now on the side of the companies. Installing the updates is free and this should be done immediately,” added the director of Kaspersky.
The two experts pointed out that Latin America may be even more vulnerable to attacks for another reason: piracy.
“I know of companies that have Windows pirates, which break Windows security and they cannot install the updates. Failure to pay for licenses is a risk,” Bestuzhev said.
The director of Kaspersky also said that it is possible to recover the files without paying the hackers. The company is working with Interpol to decrypt the lock.
“It’s a matter of time,” he said. By Diana Marcela Tinjacá.