Cybercrime in Brazil more likely to come from peers, rather than strangers

. Aug 07, 2019
cyberattacks hacker brazil

Since June, scandals related to high-ranking Brazilian officials have shed light on users’ protection against data breaches. The leak of Telegram messages between Justice Minister Sérgio Moro and prosecutors of the Operation Car Wash task force have shown that even top authorities aren’t safe from gaps in security settings.

Within a year, users are expected to gain more control over their own data, as Brazil’s Data Protection Law (LGPD) is set to come into force.

The legislation will impose a series of obligations on companies which hold personal information of clients and fine them up to BRL 50 million (or two percent of the company’s revenue, whichever is the largest) in case of a breach.  </p> <p>In the meantime, Brazilians still have to resort to expert services to help them solve these problems and deal with the occasional torment of life online. Since 2007, NGO Safernet provides users with a tool to express their grievances and refers them to a range of services—from the police to psychological assistance groups—to help them cope with the issues raised by the internet.&nbsp;</p> <p>Since 2007, the Helpline channel has assisted 24,662 people via chat and email. In that period, the service has amassed <a href="">4 million anonymous reports</a>. The organization has now gathered enough data to show what affects Brazilians’ online the most, and what causes them to seek assistance. Non-consensual distribution of intimate content topped the rank of reports in 2018, followed by cyberbullying, fraud, personal data breaches, and hate speech. Teenagers made up 46 percent of the 8,679 victims who solicited the service last year.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>A <a href="">recent study</a> from cybersecurity company Fortinet showed there have been over 15 billion cyberattacks in Brazil in the past three months alone. Experts suggest that the country is still <a href="">vulnerable to old threats</a>, such as the 2017 Wannacry ransomware attack, as operating systems are not being properly updated.</p> <script src="" type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>According to 2018 data from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), the U.S. government&#8217;s platform to submit online crimes, American citizens largely suffered with the nonpayment for items shipped and non-delivery of items paid for—a symptom of the country&#8217;s booming e-commerce. Personal data breaches ranked third. Last year, the number of such cases amounted to 1,244, with over 446.5 million records exposed. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Juliana Cunha, trained psychologist and Safernet director, stated that the high number of reports of cyberbullying and the non-consensual distribution of intimate pictures or videos shows that most of the attacks in Brazil come from peers, not from strangers.</p> <p>“When we think of cybercrimes, we may think that the main danger is pedophilia and the unknown adult behind it. But what the numbers tell us is that violence comes from someone who is part of the victim’s life, who hangs out with him/her. It tears down some myths on the perils of the internet, which is usually associated to unknown people.”</p> <p>Ms. Cunha also highlights that women are the target of almost 70 percent of reports related to the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, while both men and women are equally affected by cases of sexual extortion. There were 93 reports for each gender up to June 2019, while 45 women reported they had their private videos or pictures leaked, and only 12 men have been through the same problem. Last year, women amounted to 440 cases, while there were 229 male victims.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Hacker attacks and security literacy</h2> <p>Fraud (242 cases) and personal data breaches (215) come third and fourth in the 2018 ranking, respectively. Over the past four years, Helpline’s reports on such crimes have grown 62 percent. Though they are still behind other types of attacks, both seem to be rising concerns among users.&nbsp;</p> <p>For Ms. Cunha, the main tool to tackle the problem of personal data breaches in Brazil is security literacy. “People don&#8217;t know what two-step verification is, and they still have a hard time configuring their devices, especially those who have started to access the internet as adults. Users learn by their own and generally don’t want to spend a long time reading large and complicated privacy terms.”</p> <p>However, Ms. Cunha points out that Brazilians aren’t totally naive: they know that data has become a valuable asset for companies. “They just don’t know what they are used for,” she says.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>After years of experience assisting users disturbed by conditions and diseases directly linked to the internet, Juliana Cunha praises Instagram’s initiative of hiding the number of likes on its posts, though she says it is too early to tell whether it has improved the content or engagement: “There is no data to compare yet. But it is an interesting measure to raise the debate on wellness on the platform. We are mostly focused on crimes, on how to react, but it is important to be proactive. And as it has been proposed by a company, it can motivate other platforms to act as well.”

Maria Martha Bruno

Maria Martha is a journalist with 14 years of experience in politics, arts, and breaking news. She has already collaborated with Al Jazeera, NBC, and CNN, among others. She has also worked as an international correspondent in Buenos Aires.

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