Latin America could be vulnerable to cyberterrorism

The Chilean government’s website was hacked on May 17 by a group called “Anonymous.” The site was rendered useless for about an hour. (Adrián Martínez for Infosurhoy.com)

The Chilean government’s website was hacked on May 17 by a group called “Anonymous.” The site was rendered useless for about an hour. (Adrián Martínez for Infosurhoy.com)

By Adrián Martínez for Infosurhoy.com—31/05/2011

SANTIAGO, Chile – A group calling itself “Anonymous” took responsibility for the attack on the Chilean government’s website on May 17.

The group, on its website, claimed it unleashed the cyber attack on the government’s site to protest the approval of HidroAysén, a hydroelectric project in Patagonia, located in the country’s southern region.

The attack, which “Anonymous” called “Tormenta del sur” (Southern Storm) crashed the government’s website, rendering it useless for about an hour.

The group had already perpetrated a similar attack, a week earlier, against the project’s webpage and also against the official website for Colbún, a corporate consortium associated with the project.

The attacks by “Anonymous” were just the latest examples of cyberterrorism against public and private computer systems throughout Latin America. They also have raised questions whether Latin American countries have taken sufficient steps to protect themselves against cyberterrorism.

“There is still a bit of incomprehension in Latin America regarding the security needed when handling information and computer resources,” says Cristián Borghello, director of Segu-Info, an Argentine consulting agency that promotes computer safety. “Both private businesses and government organizations are faced with a lot of work to reach international standards [in cyber security].”

Borghello said the region lacks security measures to protect sensitive and personal information stored in computers.

“This allows criminals from every corner of the world to take advantage of the information by gaining unauthorized access to it,” he said. “They could change the information and put it at risk.”

Officials who attended the United Nations’12 Conference on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Brazil in April 2010 concluded terrorist groups are using the Internet to promote their ideas and to commit crimes through cyberterrorism.

Officials also acknowledged that, since there is no way to create a universal set of laws to penalize cyberterrorism, nations must create their own agencies dedicated to stopping it, such as the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime.

On the same day the Chilean government’s website was hacked, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the U.S. International Strategy for Cyberspace. She said the strategy is aimed at promoting “information and communications infrastructure that is open to innovation and interoperable worldwide and is secure and reliable.”

Víctor Montero, executive director of operations for Onapsis, a Buenos Aires-based cyber security firm, said Latin American nations need to pay more attention to Internet security.

“People still associate the word cyberterrorism with science fiction films, and there is no real understanding of the meaning of the term,” he said. “The word ‘terrorism’ is so strong that many people believe that ‘cyberterrorism’ means to explode bombs with a mouse, something which is surely possible to do, but it is more commonly associated with Hollywood than with everyday life.”

He added: “The majority of companies that rely on putting all their information into their critical commercial infrastructures are susceptible to these attacks and are not aware of it. Modifications made to accounting and invoicing data, stealing formulas and patents information, the manipulation of dossiers and forms, stealing stock, client and information and business secrets…all that is also cyberterrorism.”

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