Author

Cybersecurity in Latin America: Challenges, Concerns and Opportunities

This article is part of the book Challenges and Threats to Security in Latin America.


Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the evolution of global geopolitics, and emerging digital technology has become its center of gravity. The lack of cybersecurity policies and strategies to address the vulnerabilities to freedom of expression in cyberspace, the use of Artificial Intelligence, 5G wireless communications, critical infrastructures, cyber diplomacy, cryptocurrencies, as well as cloud technology for data storage and use are important sources of threats and challenges for cybersecurity in Latin America. This situation has created great opportunities for the cybersecurity sector to respond to the increase in attacks in cyberspace, including a growing number of companies that require such services. In this context, this article analyzes -politically and strategically- the threats, challenges and opportunities presented by cybersecurity in Latin America.

Keywords: Digital Technology, Emerging and Convergent, Policy, Strategy, Cybersecurity.

Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the sustained evolution of global geopolitics, with emerging digital technology at its center of gravity. A combination of regulations and growing threats are defining the landscape of technological security, stimulating the need for increased educational efforts in cybersecurity understanding and collaboration between public and private organizations. Therefore, this article analyzes, from the political and strategic point of view, eight key areas (freedom of expression, Artificial Intelligence, 5G wireless communications technology, critical infrastructures, data acquisition, supervision and control system – SCADA, cyber diplomacy, cryptocurrencies and cloud technology) that describe the cybersecurity overview, as well as the concerns, challenges and opportunities for these processes in Latin America.

On the one hand, freedom of expression is a fundamental pillar of liberal democracy in the West. The use of social networks has had a disruptive impact on this right, with serious consequences on the stability of this democratic exercise. Likewise, advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the field of security and defense require knowledge and understanding of the current scope of this technology, as ignorance can lead to operational errors, as well as the loss of effective employment opportunities in cybersecurity.

On the other hand, the fifth generation (5G) of wireless communications technologies increases the speed of data transfer and improves bandwidth. In the military field, 5G technology could improve intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), enable new command-and-control (C2) methods, and streamline logistics systems for greater efficiency. However, all this requires knowledge and understanding of their strengths and vulnerabilities to ensure the competent and safe use of these capabilities. In addition, critical infrastructures cover a wide range of functional aspects of the State, such as power plants, industrial and sanitary systems, land, air and maritime traffic, and the economic and financial system. However, as they become more vulnerable to cyber ransomware attacks, their protection begins with the design of policies and implementation of cybersecurity strategies for the protection of the country.

Likewise, the SCADA System is a software and hardware architecture for the acquisition, supervision, and control of data in real time, used in industrial, commercial, and institutional processes. Attacks on the SCADA system are proliferating worldwide and are a major concern in the region. Likewise, the new cyber domain has become a scenario of constant confrontation between individuals and between nations. Therefore, cyber diplomacy is a recent tool that must be known and used to achieve the objectives of global governance of cyberspace.

In this context, cryptocurrency is one of the engines of new financial and economic models and is becoming one of the priorities of countries and organizations. Cryptocurrencies and the operation of this novel digital monetary system are unknown to most authorities responsible for the design and implementation of public policies and strategies. In addition, cloud technology is a major source of cybersecurity threats, making it increasingly difficult to protect the data stored in it. Consequently, policies and strategies authorities urgently need serious training to know and understand the efficient use of this technology in the framework of cybersecurity.

Therefore, the cybersecurity agenda in democratic societies in Latin America requires the determined effort and commitment of its leaders to develop appropriate policies and strategies. In this sense, this article analyzes the decisive aspects for the exercise of cyberspace governance through regional cooperation cybersecurity, being an important contribution to the development and welfare of the region within the framework of the rule of law and liberal democracy.

Freedom of Expression and Social Media in Latin American Cyberspace

The trend of internet and telephone communications unrestricted government surveillance of and the lack of effective legal oversight are part of an ongoing battle in Latin American countries. Surveillance capabilities and technologies are increasingly intrusive and prevalent, surrounded by a culture of secrecy and views rooted in the abusive use of government power, which is pitting security against privacy. This situation has generated growing resistance from society against the government’s biometric surveillance and distrust in the authorities. A clear example has been the repeated attempts, in 2021, to force people to give their biometric data to access mobile phone services in Mexico, Paraguay and Colombia, with strong opposition from civil society.

In this regard, in Mexico, the Supreme Court of Justice indefinitely suspended the creation of the National Registry of Mobile Phone Users (a national registry of mobile users associated with their biometric data) after the federal agency in charge of implementing the registry filed a unconstitutionality lawsuit, asserting its duty to guarantee users’ rights to privacy, data protection and access to information.[1] In Paraguay, a bill requiring users to register their biometric data to enable a mobile phone service was rejected by a parliamentary committee and has since been held up in Congress. Meanwhile,[2] in Colombia, the Karisma Foundation stressed, in October 2021, that internet blackouts and online censorship and surveillance violate the right to protest online.[3] Amid this turmoil, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has put together a set of resources to help people navigate safely in digital protest environments.[4]

Colombian police “patrolling” on the web has also reinforced concerns about its invasive nature. Karisma notes that a 2015 Colombian police resolution authorizing “cyber-patrolling” by law enforcement is unclear about its scope, procedures, tools and specific limits.[5] Likewise, Colombian Ministry of Defense of June 2021 reports on activities during the national strike indicating that digital patrolling served to detect cyber-threats, profile suspicious individuals and activities related to acts of vandalism, and combat; deemed by the government as online disinformation. In the latter case, cyber-patrolling was combined with a narrative dispute over the truth of reports, images and videos of excessive use of police force, attracting national and international attention.[6]

Although there are some legislative advances in some countries, fears remain regarding the regulatory framework, privacy, and freedom of expression. One such example has been Brazil’s legislative project 2630/2020, called the fake news bill, which continued to be debated in the Congress of the Republic during 2021.[7] In this regard, Brazilian civil society groups and activists remained firm in their opposition to the traceability rule, which forces instant messaging applications to massively retain the chain of forwarded communications, undermining users’ privacy expectations, as well as guarantees, and end-to-end encryption principles. However, the traceability mandate was removed in the latest version of the bill, although privacy dangers remain in other provisions.

In El Salvador, Apple warned journalists from the well-known independent online media El Faro about possible attacks on their iPhones by state-sponsored attackers. Similar warnings were sent to Salvadoran leaders of civil society organizations and opposition political parties. However, these allegations have not led to any investigation by the responsible government authorities.[8] At the regional level, leading cyberspace rights groups in Latin America requested a thematic hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to discuss the human rights risks caused by social media surveillance methods.[9]

The widespread use of malicious software by Latin American governments generally occurs without clear and precise legal authorization, much less with strict standards of necessity and proportionality, in the absence of legislation that establishes the scope, limits and due process in the framework of freedom of expression. Therefore, the United Nations High Commissioner, as well as various experts and organizations worldwide, have proposed a regional moratorium on the use of malware technology, until States have solid legal guarantees and effective controls to ensure the protection of human rights. This would put an end to persistent abuses and arbitrary violence related to the use of spyware by governments and hackers in general.

Social discontent will persist until governments recognize that the hostility of intelligence agencies and law enforcement toward device security puts all citizens in danger. Instead of exploiting system vulnerabilities, governments should align themselves in favor of robust cybersecurity for all. Moreover, there is no doubt that the new frontiers of fake news require some sort of legal intervention. Governments in the region, for the most part, continue to use digital communication tools to influence political opponents and citizens in general, employing unsophisticated technology.

Large social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter have been used to control, rather than release healthy communication, as they should have had enough foresight to prevent powerful political actors, and even ordinary people, from trying to use their platforms to repress or demoralize. Social bots (software to perform automatic remote attacks) on Twitter have played an important role since the platform was launched to instantly report not only on the latest news or banal announcements, but also on conspiracy and propaganda. Currently, companies in Silicon Valley in the United States were warned that their technologies were being used by the powerful to manipulate the weak. Most attacks have been carried out by human bots or cyborgs (living beings whose capabilities are enhanced by computer implants or mechanical body parts) easily compared to current technologies (such as AI, machine learning or deep learning), since they did not involve deep fakes or human-like technology. However, smarter technology is expected to be available soon.

For example, the machine learning and deep learning in used today, with increasing availability of AI tools, have implications for online written, visual, auditory, and tactile communication. Social bots are becoming more interactive: deepfakes (specially designed images, audio, and video content that use AI technologies to look like legitimate content) are becoming more compelling, and artificial voices — like Siri and Cortana — sound more human. With these innovations and along with the increased general understanding of digital misinformation, disreputable PR firms, corrupt political consultants, and a host of other groups using fake news are changing their tactics. The way social media operations are being launched makes people act more like robots and robots look more like humans to confuse algorithms set up to track fake news. These groups are seeding and fertilizing fake news to confuse users on other widely used platforms in Latin America (such as WhatsApp, Telegram and TikTok).

Knowing how these social media companies have operated and are operating in the world, but particularly in Latin America, the following question arises: What should be done at the political and strategic level to counter this threat to society and liberal democracy in the region? To prevent targeted attacks and fake news campaigns through social media, regulations and policies must be created to protect everyone – but particularly the most vulnerable classes – from online manipulation. New regulations should make clearly illegal for social media companies to sell targeted ads to the most vulnerable with misinformation or politically featured disinformation.

In that sense, social media companies must provide safe online spaces for users and facilitate their daily use by protecting and moderating them. Companies such as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, WhatsApp and others need to be policed more vigorously for fake news, hate speech, religion and politics, as well as so-called post-truth. It should not be accepted that companies have the discretion to select cases of disinformation, one by one, at their own discretion, selecting only those that may have media attention for political, ethnic or religious reasons.

The policy and strategy should consider social networks users as age groups since, depending on the age, social platforms continue to be spaces for manipulation of information, generally aimed at young people, although adults can also be affected due to lack of knowledge in the operation of electronic devices with high digital technology. According to Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew, young people have been shown to assume that by mastering devices and social media, they are better prepared and less exposed to manipulations of information, which is exactly the opposite.[10] In Latin America, WhatsApp and Instagram are the most used networks for their ease of operation and wide range of operation for different age groups.

In liberal democracy, legally binding restrictions must be established for those entrusted with the performance of authority; that is, restrictions on the exercise of political power to prevent abuses. In fact, the idea of applying moderation as a principle of political systems is one of the most venerable in political theory, with roots dating back to ancient Greece. Currently, most liberal democratic societies agree that the development of policies and strategies for restraining government (executive power) is necessary and strengthens democracy as such.

Artificial Intelligence and its Implications in Latin American Cyberspace

Security and defense as an occupational discipline has long used technological advances to enhance its efforts in protecting a country’s assets, as the new cyber domain presents threats that pose a risk to the nation. Currently, such technological developments include advances in AI.[11] However, many authorities within the security and defense sector, out of ignorance, describe this technology beyond its technical capabilities, resulting in misunderstandings in the functionality, opportunities for advancement and knowledge gaps in the risks associated with such development in Latin America.

According to experts on AI and its use in security and defense matters, AI is at an elementary stage, with limited capacity for intelligent and autonomous decision-making. AI does not think, but it calculates, processes, applies rules, and is used in machine learning.[12] AI applications can even generate rules based on data learning. However, AI is fallible and inflexible, and subsequently operates in a black-and-white environment. In contrast, humans think, create, and can understand unusual environmental changes or disturbances fluently enough to analyze and contextualize human constructs such as intention and motivation.

Such a representation shapes the understanding of AI in security and defense technologies, as it requires understanding of context, and not just computing or processing. Presently, AI does not have the capacity for human understanding, nor can it adapt as a human being does. Consequently, by its very nature, it cannot provide guarantees, under dynamic conditions, to areas such as security and defense, presenting serious deficiencies in terms of protection.

Intelligent autonomy levels for security and defense technologies are unlikely to change significantly over the next ten years. On the contrary, the era of quantum computing is likely to facilitate the development of AI beyond current expectations. Quantum computing will probably be the key factor that allows AI to reach the point of singularity and reach the level of pro-autonomy. Until then, AI could yield reasonable economic benefits, such as increased productivity and reduced costs. However, the overwhelming benefit to security and defense in the developing future will be the use of responsive technologies, such as drones and robotics, to protect and defend humans.

5G Wireless Communications and its Impact on Cybersecurity in Latin America

The fifth generation (5G) of wireless communications technologies increases data transfer speed and improves bandwidth over existing fourth generation (4G) technologies, while enabling new military and commercial applications. 5G technologies are expected to support interconnected systems or autonomous devices, such as smart homes, autonomous vehicles, precision systems, industrial, machinery, and advanced robotics. Additionally, for the military, 5G could improve ISR, enable new C2 methods, and streamline logistics systems for greater efficiency, among other uses. However, as 5G technologies are developed and deployed, states should consider the necessary adjustments to their cybersecurity policies and strategies for national security spectrum management, as well as the implications for defense capabilities, particularly in military operations.

5G wireless communication technology uses three segments of the electromagnetic spectrum: the high band (also called millimeter wave or MMW, which operates between 24 and 300 GHz), the mid-band (which operates between 1 GHz and 6 GHz) and the low band (which operates below 1 GHz). The mid and low bands are often collectively referred to as U-6. According to some analysts, spectrum sharing is necessary, reserving enough U-6s for commercial purposes. This would require the security and defense sector to relocate certain applications to other parts of the spectrum, such as high band. It is estimated that this form of distribution would allow the spectrum to be completed in 5 years. Otherwise, it would take about 10 years to complete the distribution.[13] From a security and defense standpoint, 5G wireless communications could have several potential military applications, for autonomous vehicles, C2, logistics, maintenance, augmented and virtual reality, as well as for ISR systems, all of which would benefit from improved data rates and a shorter time delay.

Currently, at the political and strategic level, government authorities should discuss and coordinate with Congress on the following issues for the development of appropriate policies and strategies regarding 5G wireless communication technology: (1) What approach should be given to spectrum management? e.g., spectrum sharing, as well as security and defense allocation to better protect the missions of the Ministry of Defense, while meeting growing business demands. (2) What are the risks to the country’s national security posed by foreign 5G infrastructure? Can that risk be managed, if so, how? (3) Should the country limit intelligence share with countries operating 5G equipment supplied by potential enemies? (4) Are changes in operational concepts, force structure, doctrine or posture necessary due to military 5G developments or applications? (5) To what extent would commercial 5G technologies be vulnerable to jamming attacks from potential adversaries?

Without governance policies, strategies, and structures, the socio-political, legal, and security and defense risks of the application and use of 5G wireless communications technology may overshadow any benefits of these technologies. Security, privacy, individual rights, and potential impact on humanity must be fundamental considerations for the use of any AI and 5G application in security and defense. The pursuit of technological and military supremacy can undermine these basic rights, and the consequences can be irreversible and irreparable. Therefore, Latin American governments must establish a viable platform, from which AI, 5G and development can be managed in a politically and socially desirable manner, for the benefit of the security and defense of every country in the region.

Critical Infrastructures in Latin America from the Cybersecurity standpoint

In 2021, the U.S. government and corporations struggled to contain the damage caused by the attack on network management software provider SolarWinds, which compromised nine federal agencies and dozens of companies. In the same period, ransomware attacks increased in frequency and severity, disrupting operations at the major Colonial Pipeline which supplies fuel to the U.S.[14] East Coast, and at the Brazilian meat processor JBS, a Brazilian company located in this country.[15] The vulnerabilityin a widely used piece of open-source software left thousands of companies, including SaaS-as-a-service software providers and cloud services, vulnerable to cyberattack.

Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian cyber threat actors deployed destructive malwares and ransomware against critical infrastructure in Ukraine to destroy computer systems and render them inoperable. Between January 15 and February 23, 2022, Microsoft’s threat intelligence center and cybersecurity[16] researchers revealed that malicious programs known as WhisperGate and HermeticWiper were used to attack critical organizations and facilities by destroying devices, windows critical to systems operations.

As National Critical Infrastructures become more vulnerable to cyberattacks, their protection is critical for any organization and nation. In addition, the ability to attribute an action in cyberspace is a vital element in preventing impunity in the digital space. However, the greatest security is the ability to prevent.

The Data Acquisition, Supervision and Control System – SCADA

While technological advances have unquestionably benefited the world, they also present an adverse side that can be turned against humanity. Hackers can activate monitors to spy on people, while hackers can attack vulnerabilities by using ransomware and malwares to disrupt critical infrastructure. For example, by attacking the SCADA system, which enables the operations of chemical, power and water supply plants, bridges, highways, sanitary systems, ports, and airports, as well as economic and financial organizations.

The SCADA system is a software and hardware architecture for the acquisition, supervision, and control of real-time data of industrial, commercial, and institutional processes composed of computers, graphical user interfaces and remote network data communications, among others. This system collects a significant amount of data and, to do so, it integrates a variety of sensors and measuring devices in digital or analog format, depending on the application. When the data is collected, it is sent to a remote terminal unit or programmable logic controller. Once received, the collected data is translated into usable information and transferred to a human-machine interface where operators can analyze the data and interact with field devices such as valves, pumps, motors, and sensors, some located in inaccessible locations.

Today, SCADA systems are the target of cyberattacks. It is worth noting that attacks on these systems affect a substantial number of people, causing significant damage and ultimately threatening human lives. Post-attack investigations link them to exploitation of vulnerabilities deeply rooted in the system’s design philosophy, which focuses on operational readiness rather than security.

Cyber Diplomacy

The new cyber domain is rapidly deteriorating on several fronts marked by the increasing sophistication of cyberattacks, as well as the lack of consensus on global Internet governance and intensifying competition among the major powers. These challenges are critical turning points among nation-states to recalibrate prevailing cyber diplomatic commitments. Cyber diplomacy is a post-liberal global practice, considering that cyberspace was a creation of the liberal order. The role it plays in shaping a new order or building bridges between different political visions, and what it means for the future of cyberspace, are key points of discussion.

The potential demise of liberal democracy will affect cyberspace as it is conceived in the West. The consequences of a liberal post-democratic cyberspace will significantly impact the current global order. In this context, the concept of cyber diplomacy involves the use of resources and the performance of diplomatic functions to protect national interests with respect to cyberspace. In that sense, cyber diplomacy is a type of diplomacy in which state representatives engage to protect the interests of national cyberspace, which often include cybersecurity, cybercrime, and freedom to use the Internet. Therefore, what differentiates cyber diplomacy from traditional diplomacy is the fact that it uses non-traditional diplomatic partners, such as representatives of Internet companies, technology companies and civil society organizations. Cyber diplomacy depends on these private actors as they handle most of the information and property in cyberspace.

It is also important to recognize what cyber diplomacy is not, as it is not necessarily involved in all interstate interactions about technology or cyberspace. Moreover, cyber diplomacy is not necessarily the practice of state representatives using the Internet or technology to interact with each other, but rather, e-diplomacy or digital diplomacy, and may include, for example, a state organization that posts infographics on Instagram or two diplomats having an exchange via Twitter. This can be complicated due to the fact that, historically, cyber diplomacy, e-diplomacy and digital diplomacy were used somewhat interchangeably. However, cyber diplomacy has emerged as a term of its own denoting a practice.

Cyber diplomacy presents benefits and vulnerabilities that, in an international system marred by uncertainty and security paranoia, can be a solution to a new wave of insecurity spread by cybersecurity issues. The goal of the international community must be to decisively establish voluntary rules and regulations for cyberspace. This takes into account the following three main problems that cyberspace poses to traditional defense strategies: (1) deterrence is less effective due to the variety of actors and strategies; (2) the means of cyberattack make it difficult, if not sometimes impossible, to attribute responsibility to an actor or group of actors; and (3) the security and technology gap between cyber powers and developing states widens vulnerabilities.

Since traditional defense strategies cannot meet most of these challenges, cyber diplomacy is one of the only methods states must prevent, resolve, and punish attacks. An example of a questionable success of cyber diplomacy would be that of China and the United States. Years of mutual accusations and proven cyberattacks between these two countries gave way to the 2015 cybersecurity agreement between Obama and Xi Jinping: cooperation and mutual assistance in the investigation of cybercrimes, mutually restricting economic cyber espionage, and establishing a monitoring mechanism and hotline for escalating cyber problems. Instead of entering into conflicting, both countries sought to establish mutual rules for interaction.

There is a set of tools to achieve the main objective of cyber diplomacy, which is the creation of voluntary standards and regulations for cyberspace. In this regard, after a series of negotiations, in June 2013, the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts (UNGGE) established that cyberspace, like the high seas or outer space, was a global common good and was subject to international law (including the UN Charter). Other international organizations, such as NATO, in 2014, confirmed the UN’s decision and added that cyber defense would be integrated into the collective defense strategies of the alliance.

Some scholars have argued that international organizations should expand their cyber domain beyond simply setting standards. However, individual states have also created tools to deal with the cyber threat. Therefore, cyber diplomacy has three models to follow. In the first model, states create a department or agency to develop cyber policies and manage cyber issues; for example, the UK’s National Cyber Security. In the second model, states create a coordinating unit to synchronize policy between various departments and agencies; for example, the Office of the Coordinator of Cyber Affairs, within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Finally, in the third model, states select a hybrid model in which they create an agency that coordinates policy between agencies (often on domestic issues and cooperation with the private sector) and deals more unilaterally with cyber issues (for international cyber negotiations); for example, the German Federal Office for Information Security.

Like almost all cyber issues, the novelty of cyber diplomacy led to it being underdeveloped for years and left to the domain of engineers, seen as a technical matter. However, in 2003, UN cyber meetings proliferated internationally. By 2010, at least three major cyber powers (UK, China, and US) had developed separate policies, but these focused mainly on domestic politics and coordination with the private sector. To date, few states have developed independent cyber diplomacy policies, including: the U.S. National Strategy for Cyberspace (2018),[17] Japan’s International Strategy on Cybersecurity and Cooperation (2015),[18] the EU Council Conclusions on Cyber Diplomacy (2015),[19] and Australia’s International Engagement Strategy (2015).

There are also difficulties in developing appropriate channels for cyber diplomacy and cyber issues. States focus on cybernetics of an inter-institutional nature, lacking cooperation. For example, Germany had, in 2010, 12 independent departments that developed policies to design its cyber strategy. Another challenge is that many States may view the establishment or implementation of international standards on cyberspace as an intrusion on sovereignty and an impact on their national interests. Therefore, cyber diplomacy must demonstrate that cooperation in creating common standards for cyberspace is a vital national interest of all States, sharing information regarding cyberspace and building mutual trust to prevent conflict. Finally, perhaps the most pressing challenge for cyber diplomacy is the lack of research and literature on the subject.

The study of cyber diplomacy poses with many challenges as it is a new field with few case studies, which departs far enough from traditional diplomacy. Within the framework of the study and analysis of critical infrastructures, the convergence between cyber diplomacy and the SCADA system is essential to achieve the efficient and effective protection required in cyberspace. In this sense, the tools of cyber diplomacy can be largely applied to SCADA. Consequently, any conversation or negotiation about critical infrastructure should include a discussion on SCADA systems and their vulnerabilities. Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge is that this system is perceived as an internal problem because international organizations prefer to focus on standards and mutual trust, rather than building mutual defense through cyber diplomacy.

However, so far cyber diplomacy cannot be used to strengthen SCADA defenses worldwide, but it can be used to provide rules and regulations as to how states should interact with these systems. Likewise, cyber diplomacy can be used to create regional or global agreements. The case of Central America is emblematic since regional energy exchange is very important. Standards for SCADA systems are especially critical in regions that share systems between bordering countries, which is common practice throughout Latin America. In addition, states with large cyber technology gaps are the most vulnerable.

Cryptocurrency

New technologies are transforming markets and sectors. In this context, the digitalization of the world represents a radical change in the way of doing business. Undoubtedly, cryptocurrencies are one of the drivers of this change as new financial and economic models become one of the priorities of developed countries and organizations. However, cryptocurrencies and their operation are unknown by most authorities responsible for the design and implementation of public policies and strategies in this novel digital monetary system. This situation does not favor its development and use as a common element in markets and commercial relations, not to mention the implications for the security and defense of the State. Therefore, it is necessary that professionals, academics, and scientists from the public and private sectors know what is researched and developed on this topic, taking into account aspects such as cybersecurity and its relationship with cryptocurrencies.

Cryptocurrency is, essentially, electronic money; that is, it only exists in digital form. This allows buying and selling them like any current currency but taking advantage of the digital means. Cryptocurrencies can be used to make quick payments and avoid transaction fees.[20] They can also buy cryptocurrencies as an (speculative) investment in the hope that their value will increase. Likewise, cryptocurrencies can be purchased by credit card or through a process called “mining.” The latter is a competitive process that verifies and adds new transactions to the system protected by blockchain technology, in which the miner makes money if the transaction is accepted.[21]

Although cryptocurrencies have suffered ups and downs in their short history, they have managed to consolidate and grow. There are important countries and institutions that are studying the possibility of launching their own cryptocurrency. This gives an idea of the projection and potential of these virtual currencies, but there are still many doubts about their operation, evolution, and adaptation to the real world.[22] The popularity and value of cryptocurrencies has made them an object of desire for many users. As a result, a high number of fraud attempts are hidden behind cryptocurrency transactions that never take place. The goal of these frauds is always the same: data theft. The organization’s cybersecurity could be severely affected If these attacks occur on a company’s or its employees’ computers.[23]

Financial reward cyberattacks have also proliferated through learning how to take advantage of the cryptocurrency environment. Without adequate measures to prevent them, it is easy to gain access to the physical cyber network of a company and demand payment in cryptocurrencies in exchange for solving the problem. Likewise, tracking such transactions is virtually impossible, which makes computer forensics work very difficult.[24] Therefore, it is necessary to understand cryptocurrencies from a comprehensive approach, considering the characteristics that refer to the cryptocurrencies themselves, but also those that have to do with the security of the digital world. If the cybersecurity issues associated with this type of digital currency are not defined, its growth, evolution and adaptation will be affected, despite being a booming trend with strong roots in sectors of high financial and economic value.

Finally, policy and strategy developers will need to know and understand the design of the digital currency operating system to perform a bibliometric network analysis to identify the intellectual structure of cryptocurrencies and cybersecurity research fields. Bibliometric studies provide valuable information on scientific articles published in different countries and allow comparing scientific results of productivity in terms of identifying current issues.[25] In this sense, bibliometrics is defined as the set of methods and tools to evaluate and analyze the evolution of scientific and academic knowledge of publications and their citations. Its objective is to analyze their impact and evaluate how they contribute to the progress of science in the main subject areas. Likewise, bibliometrics makes possible to measure the productive scientific and academic quality in the field of research.[26]

For the study and analysis of the development and evolution of cryptocurrencies and their relationship with cybersecurity there are two categories of bibliometric techniques: performance analysis (operability) and co-occurrence mapping. In performance, the analysis focuses on the impact of publications based on their output and citations evolution, while the co-occurrence mapping represents how the major publications, research topics or authors interrelate. This last category is widely used to understand, discover, and visualize hard-to-see or hidden relationships among topics central to the development of the field. In terms of bibliometric performance, the literature related to cryptocurrencies and cybersecurity showed a remarkable increase in recent years due to the large volume of publications and citations received in this field. Interest is expected to continue to grow and support other areas of knowledge, such as information and communication technologies, financial technologies, entrepreneurship, and new business models.

Undoubtedly, it is necessary to link the concepts of cryptocurrencies and cybersecurity, and priority must be given to the discussion of trends, challenges, opportunities, and technologies that are required for the operation of the purchase, and sale transfers sector, as well as cryptocurrency mining. For this reason, it is necessary for analysts responsible for the design of policies and implementation of strategies to understand the use of cryptocurrencies in the digital market, so research must be developed with the bibliometric methodologies that support the corresponding analysis. In short, the goal is to use of this new financial system efficiently and effectively, but with the required level of cybersecurity. This analysis methodology establishes the first research framework related to both topics and could be used to promote new knowledge.

Cloud Technology

The U.S. government often uses the term “cloud” for any technology solution provided by a third-party provider. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defined several cloud deployment models, with progressive increases in management by third-party vendors, including: (1) Infrastructure as a Service (where providers provide the infrastructure and hardware), (2) Platform as a Service (where vendors provide a managed environment for a customer’s application), and (3) Software as a service (where providers provide a fully managed application and customers only need to provide their data).

In practice, many of the offerings of major suppliers do not have well-defined limits. Regardless of the common use of the term “cloud,” it is most accurately applied to those solutions that exhibit five essential cloud computing characteristics, as defined by NIST: on-demand service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity, and metered service.[27] Developed nearly a decade after the First Cloud, the Intelligent Cloud emerges, equipping agencies with actionable insights and recommendations drawn from some of the country’s most impactful public and private sector use cases.

Unlike the first cloud, which gave agencies broad authority to adopt cloud-based solutions, the intelligent cloud offers practical implementation guidance to government missions to fully leverage the potential of such technologies while ensuring secure operations. Additionally, cloud misconfigurations are also a major source of cybersecurity threats. Therefore, protecting data across the environment is becoming increasingly difficult. Users need more effective training to understand their cybersecurity responsibilities, while organizations struggle to hire enough security experts to meet their needs.[28]

With the intensification of the use of cyberspace, the following question arises: What should organizations and institutions expect from cloud technology in 2022? In this regard, Global Data Systems projects the following four predictions about the security landscape for this year:

1. Phishing will remain the dominant threat. For the past few years, phishing has been the most prevalent cyberattack organizations face. According to Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, 43 % of breaches begin with a phishing attack. Security analysts expect it to remain the dominant threat in 2022, although cybercriminals are changing a bit their techniques. Instead of sending many emails to groups of users, they will produce highly targeted attacks on selected individuals, making phishing more difficult to detect. Organizations will need to improve their email and endpoints security and provide users with effective cybersecurity training to address this threat.

2. Organizations will need to monitor, manage, and secure the growing IT [Information Technology] footprint. The shift to hybrid and remote working models translates in more terminals used outside the secure perimeter. At the same time, organizations are expanding their Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives, deploying a wide range of sensors and other devices to automate processes and monitor operations. This growing IT footprint means hackers have an ever-growing attack surface to exploit.

3. Evolution of ransomware attacks will require increased vigilance. Ransomware dominated security news in 2021, particularly with high-profile incidents like the Colonial Pipeline attack. In 2022, enterprise organizations should expect to become more ransomware targeted; targeting healthcare organizations, oil and gas industry, and other organizations that are willing to pay the ransom to avoid disruptions. Criminals will also use data exfiltration and other tactics to get larger payouts. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) will face an increasing number of attacks generated by Ransomware-as-a-Service operators, who charge as little as $50 per month for subscription-based vulnerabilities.

4. Supply chain attacks will result in the quadruple extortion model. Ransomware attackers have been using double extortion: they encrypt the victim’s data and threaten to expose sensitive information. The supply chain attacks with a four-pronged extortion threat. In a supply chain attack, cybercriminals exploit vulnerability in a company’s security to gain access to the networks and data of its trading partners. This method of attack has become a favorite of groups backed by Russia, China, North Korea, and other adversary governments. In addition to traditional ransomware tactics, perpetrators may threaten to post the violation. If that doesn’t work, they can start spreading the attack among trading partners, extracting data, and demanding ransoms along the way. A successful supply chain attack can easily compromise hundreds of organizations.[29]

Conclusions

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted global society, which has shown a great spirit of resilience to face the serious health crisis and the restrictions imposed, adopting new forms and habits to work and communicate. In this context, institutions have been forced to rapidly digitize their operating models; creating remote work environments to further manage employee functions through digital channels. This situation has created great opportunities for the cybersecurity sector to respond to the rapid increase in cyberattacks, as well as the growing number of businesses requiring cybersecurity services. From the political and strategical point of view, eight fundamental areas are identified in Latin America and the Caribbean (freedom of expression, AI, 5G wireless communications technology, critical infrastructures, the SCADA system, cyber diplomacy, cryptocurrencies, and cloud technology), which describe a cybersecurity landscape marked by concerns, challenges, and opportunities to have a secure cyberspace available to everyone in the region.

Endnotes:

  1. Juan Omar Fierro, “La Suprema Corte confirma la suspensión indefinida del Panaut”, Process, (October 20, 2021), https://www.proceso.com.mx/nacional/2021/10/20/la-suprema-corte-confirma-lasuspension-indefinida-del-panaut-274293.html; Legislative Information System, “Technical File Sheet”, National Congress, (May 11, 2021), http://silpy.congreso.gov.py/expediente/123507.
  2. Legislative Information System, “Ficha Técnica del Expediente”, National Congress, (May 11, 2021), http://silpy.congreso.gov.py/expediente/123507
  3. Carolina Botero and Juan Pablo Parra, “Guns versus cellphones”, Foundation Karisma, (September 2021), https://web.karisma.org.co/guns-versus-cellphones/.
  4. Veridiana Alimonti and Shirin Mori, “#ParoNacionalColombia and Digital Security Considerations for Police Brutality Protests”, Eff, (May 19, 2021), https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2021/05/paronacionalcolombia-and-digital-security-considerations-police-brutality-protests.
  5. Ministry of National Defence, “Resolution No. 05839″, Colombian National Police, (December 31, 2015), https://www.policia.gov.co/file/32305/download?token=OA0OIAOJ.
  6. Ministry of National Defence, “Informe Del Sector Defensa: Garantías a la Manifestación Pacífica y Control de Acciones Violentas”, (June 9, 2021), https://www.policia.gov.co/sites/default/files/informe_sector_defensa_-_garantias_a_la_manifestacion_pacifica_y_control_de_acciones_violentas_-_28_de_abril_a_4_de_junio_de_2021_20210609_vf.pdf.
  7. Latin American Observatory for Media Regulation and Convergence, “Proyecto de ley de Fake News de Brasil tiene nuevo texto y será votado en breve”, (November 1, 2021), https://www.observacom.org/proyecto-de-ley-de-fake-news-de-brasil-tiene-nuevo-texto-y-sera-votado-en-breve/.
  8. David C. Adams, “Periodistas de El Salvador fueron sistemáticamente espiados con un software israelí que solo se vende a gobiernos.” Univision News, (January 12, 2022), https://www.univision.com/noticias/america-latina/software-de-espionaje-pegasus-fue-utilizado-contra-periodistas-en-el-salvador.
  9. Network in Defense of Digital Rights, “Organizaciones advierten riesgos de tecnologías de vigilancia en audiencia ante la CIDH,” (October 28, 2021), https://r3d.mx/2021/10/28/organizaciones-advierten-riesgos-de-tecnologias-de-vigilancia-en-audiencia-ante-la-cidh/.
  10. Sam Wineburg and Sara McGrew, Evaluating information: The cornerstone of civic online reasoning (Stanford: Stanford Digital Repository, 2016), https://stacks.stanford.edu/file/druid:fv751yt5934/SHEG%20Evaluating%20Information%20Online.pdf.
  11. Michael Coole, Deborah Evans and Jennifer Medbury, Artificial Intelligence in Security: Opportunities and Implications (American Society for Industrial Security, 2021), https://store.asisonline.org/artificial-intelligence-in-security-opportunities-and-implications.html.
  12. Ibid.
  13. John R. Hoehn and Kelly M. Sayler, National Security Implications of Fifth Generation (5G) Mobile Technologies (Washington, D.C: Congressional Research Service, 2022), https://www.asisonline.org/globalassets/foundation/documents/digital-transformation-series/ai-guidance-document-final.pdf.
  14. Kartikay Mehrotra and William Turton, “Hackers Breached Colonial Pipeline Using Compromised Password,” Bloomberg, (June 4, 2021), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-06-04/hackers-breached-colonial-pipeline-using-compromised-password#xj4y7vzkg
  15. “Hackeo paraliza producción en empacadoras de carne en EEUU, Canadá y Australia”, Telemundo 51 (June 2, 2021), https://www.telemundo51.com/noticias/eeuu/estados-unidos-hackeo-empacadoras-de-carne-jbs-brasil-rusia-canada-australia/2196161/
  16. “Destructive malware targeting Ukrainian organizations”, Microsoft Security (January 15, 2022), https://www.microsoft.com/security/blog/2022/01/15/destructive-malware-targeting-ukrainian-organizations/.
  17. The White House, National Cyber Strategy of the United States of America, (Washington: The White House D.C, 2018), 1-26 https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/National-Cyber-Strategy.pdf.
  18. Cybersecurity Strategy”, The Government of Japan (September 4, 2015), https://www.nisc.go.jp/eng/pdf/cs-strategy-en.pdf.
  19. General Secretariat of the Council, Council conclusions on the Cyber diplomacy (Brussels: General Secretariat of the Council, 2015), https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-6122-2015-INIT/es/pdf.
  20. Alexander Carol and Michael Dakos, “A critical investigation of cryptocurrency data and analysis”, Quantitative Finance 20, no. 2 (2020): 173-188.
  21. Diego Valdeolmillos et al, “Blockchain technology: a review of the current challenges of cryptocurrency,” document presented in International Congress on Blockchain and Applications, (Avila Spain: June 26, 2019), https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-23813-1_19#chapter-info.
  22. Jiaqi Liang, Linjing Li, and Daniel Zeng, “Evolutionary dynamics of cryptocurrency transaction networks: An empirical study,” Plos one 13, no. 8 (2018): E0202202
  23. Nikolaos A. Kyriazis, “A survey on efficiency and profitable trading opportunities in cryptocurrency markets”, Journal of Risk and Financial Management 12, no. 2 (2019): 67.
  24. Gabriel Kabanda, “Cybersecurity risk management plan for a blockchain application model”, Trans Eng Comput Sci 2, no. 1 (February 2021): 1-18, https://gnoscience.com/uploads/journals/articles/129841736561.pdf.
  25. Jose Ricardo Lopez-Robles et al, “30 years of intelligence models in management and business: A bibliometric review”, International Journal of Information Management, vol. 48, pp. 22-38, 2019.
  26. Alberto Face-Mendoza et al, “Intelligent processes in the context of Mining 4.0: Trends, research challenges and opportunities”, (document presented in International Conference on Decision Aid Sciences and Application, 2020), 480-484, https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=9317095&casa_token=cMjVb97CzNkAAAAA:YzYiVbeXKe2hUrpX-AyPQOifVwKaYI37SaJP_70cB-3mxOxzNgnKkb97qm4mwHtCCg9BBmu1.
  27. “Cybersecurity Predictions: What to Look Out for in 2022 and Beyond”, Global Data Systems, https://www.getgds.com/resources/blog/cybersecurity/cybersecurity-predictions-what-to-look-out-for-in-2022-and-beyond, (Accessed July 7, 2022).
  28. Ibid.
  29. Ibid.

SHARE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The ideas contained in this analysis are the sole responsibility of the author, without necessarily reflecting the thoughts of the CEEEP or the Peruvian Army.

Image: CEEEP

NEWSLETTER