Venezuelan Cybercriminals Operate Out in the Open Amidst Political and Economic Turmoil
November 21st, 2019
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Over the past several years, Venezuela’s political landscape has become wrought with discord. As a result, citizens have been disenfranchised and the government has cracked down on the free flow of information – including restricting internet access and censoring critical media outlets.
But, as we’ve seen in other cases where governments have restricted free internet usage, cracking down tends to simply drive citizens to the fringes in search of information, products, and new ways to gain income and support their families. Specifically, the Vietnamese government’s attempts to control the internet within its borders has spurred an uptick in dark web usage, as its educated, tech-savvy middle class grows dissatisfied with the restrictions imposed upon them.
Venezuelans are starting to do the same, as we found in our new research report, Threat Brief: Venezuelans Turn to Cybercrime in Wake of Economic Downfall. Here are some of the highlights and key findings from our report:
1. Censorship Leads to More Dark Web Activity
Only a small percentage of Venezuelan residents have access to the internet, and those that do have access are limited by government site blockers. Popular news outlets, such as CNN, El Pitazo, and El Nacional, have been blocked, as well as online news sources, such as vivoplay.net, elcapitolio.tv, vpitv.com, and the walkie-talkie app Zello. In addition, the state-owned Internet Service Provider (ISP), CANTV, has also blocked the use of VPNs. The Tor Browser is also blocked by CANTV, though advanced users have found ways around the blocks.
2. Venezuela’s Infrastructure is Vulnerable
Cybersecurity throughout the nation is weak, as the government does not have the resources to secure infrastructure. Those who do have internet access are incredibly susceptible to cyberattacks, as most are stuck with outdated operating systems and many of CANTV’s own servers are infected with malware.
3. Cryptocurrency is Displacing the Bolívar Fuerte
Venezuela’s hyperinflation rate increased to over 10 million percent over the past year. It doesn’t take an economist to understand how unsustainable that is. As a result, many citizens are left with almost no valuable assets, and have taken to trading in cryptocurrencies to secure income. Recognizing this trend, the Venezuelan government itself has tried to launch its own cryptocurrency, called petromoneda (₽). Cybercriminals in Venezuela are embracing these currency changes and are taking advantage of the opportunity to monetize criminal opportunities.
4. Cybercriminals Operate Freely Without Fear
One of the most distinguishable features of Venezuela’s cybercriminal underground is that it very much operates above ground. As the government has limited resources to track cybercriminal activity and punish those responsible, many hackers trade and sell information freely on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Although the government’s own ISP banned the use of the Tor browser, criminals in Venezuela are turning to open-source chat platforms and social media accounts to collaborate and launch attacks.
To gain a complete understanding of the cyber threat landscape in Venezuela and what it means for global organizations, download the full report.
Kevin Diffily is a Product Marketing Manager at IntSights. He strives to provide security teams with the knowledge and tools they need to enable proactive defense against emerging cyberattacks. Kevin has a background in journalism, brand development, content marketing, and social media management. He received his B.A. in Communication from Curry College and his M.A. in Integrated Marketing Communication from Emerson College. He is a staunch proponent of gratuitous Oxford comma use.
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